Rep. Daryl Metcalfe: Doctors are getting ‘kickbacks’ for vaccinating kids | Monday Morning Coffee

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe leads an anti-vaccine rally at the Pa. Capitol (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Pediatricians are getting ‘kickbacks’ from pharmaceutical companies to administer the MMR vaccine to Pennsylvania children, even as their practices discriminate against parents who decline to get their kids vaccinated, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, has told a Pittsburgh radio station.

Metcalfe, R-Butler, didn’t offer any evidence to buttress that claim, made in a Friday radio interview with KDKA-AM hosts Marty Griffin and Wendy Bell. It came as America contends with its worst measles outbreak in 25 years.

A bit of context: Metcalfe is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit “discrimination” or “harassment” by health care providers or insurance companies against parents who decline to vaccinate their children. The bill also prevents doctors from making these parents sign a liability waiver acknowledging that the child could either catch or spread an illness.

He rolled the bill out at a Capitol press conference last week, where he was surrounded by parents (and their presumably unvaccinated) children, as well as some vaccine skeptical academics.

Metcalfe told Griffin and Bell (whose husband is a physician) that children were wrongly being denied care for refusing to comply with the vaccination schedule for measles, mumps and rubella.

“Some practices are kicking patients right out of the practice, if they’re not going to comply with what they’re pushing,” Metcalfe claimed.

When Griffin told him that he’d been told by experts from the Allegheny County Health Department, and elsewhere, that his bill could “jeopardize the lives of children,” Metcalferesponded, “Well, that’s nonsense.”

And then this:

” … From my understanding many of them are getting kickbacks based on the children that … are being served [in] their practice; that they are getting kickbacks, you have pressure [from] the pharmaceutical company,” Metcalfe told Griffin and Bell.

Asked to back up his claim that doctors were getting “kickbacks,” Metcalfe declined to get into specifics, saying only that, “There’s … proof out there. I’ve got some … I’ve got folks that have been working on this issue for for a long time. I mean, there’s there’s been, I mean, nobody’s denied that it’s happening.”

Griffin countered, “Surely, the [Centers for Disease Control] does. The Allegheny County Health Department does. And UPMC physicians do, so there’s three groups.” Referring to BellGriffin added, “And her husband is a highly regarded physician. He does too. So there you have four. So we have names and entities and we’re not trying to bully here. But I like to deal in fact.”

Metcalfe parried: “Here’s the issue. Right now, you have children that are not being served by pediatric practices that are being kicked out of pediatric practices because their parents are making a choice that is legal under the law. Because in Pennsylvania, we allow for parents to decide based on religious, philosophic, or even to get medical exemptions from vaccines. Because vaccines can harm people at times depending on who the person is; what their their own genetic makeup might be, and what the history of their family might be. They might decide to get even a medical exemption. But, right now, when you’re not going to stick with the vaccine schedule, you’re being refused care — by pediatric practice after pediatric practice across the state of Pennsylvania.”

Asked whether he thought the MMR vaccine was safe, Metcalfe dodged, delving instead into a 2015 whistleblower lawsuit filed against the pharmaceutical giant, Merck, alleging that the company knew its vaccine wasn’t as effective as advertised.

“There’s been fraud, alleged by whistleblowers working for Merck, that they actually spiked the testing samples with rabbit blood,” Metcalfe said

Bell jumped in, saying, “The thing [that] is scary for me is that we had eradicated measles in 1994, I mean, that’s our lifetimes. That’s just before my oldest son was born. This is a tragic step back. Don’t you agree?”

Getting in the last word – which is what radio hosts tend to do – Griffin closed by saying, “I suggest folks listen to their doctor, and not you.”

Our Stuff:
Opinion Contributor Nick Field takes a look at voter registration patterns and what they tell us about where the Commonwealth is headed. And on our Commentary Page, Dick Polman has a few thoughts on our current anti-Vaxx hysteria.

Elsewhere:
The Inquirer 
explains what this month’s primary could mean for the city’s 10-year tax abatement program.
The Pittsburgh schools have finally digitized all their records – some date back to the 1800s (via The Post-Gazette).
After forcing most public workers into a 401(k)-style plan, most Pa. lawmakers are sticking with their generous pensions, a PennLive analysis has found.
The Morning Call has a Q&A with the city’s mayoral candidates.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day.

A bill now before the General Assembly would criminalize ‘sextortion’ in Pennsylvania, The PA Post reports.
WHYY-FM profiles some of the runners in Sunday’s Broad Street Run in Philadelphia.
Philly Community College has ‘luxury’ housing – but students? Not so muchBilly Pennreports.
Abuses of asset forfeiture are quietly spreading across Pennsylvania, LancasterOnline reports. 
Of course, there was a wedding proposal at Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon.
Politico looks at the scramble by candidates to make the cut for the Democratic 2020 primary debate stage.
Roll Call looks at the fight over cannabis legalization in Washington D.C. – Congress has a role to play.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate both gavel in at 1 p.m. today
Meanwhile  …
10 a.m., Main Rotunda: 2nd Amendment rally, emceed by, who else?, Daryl Metcalfe.
11 a.m., Media Center: Reps. Dan Frankel, Brian Sims, Malcolm Kenyatta and Sen. Larry Farnese on a bill ending LGBTQ discrimination in the state.
11:30 a.m., Main Rotunda: Nurses Week rally
12 p.m., Main Rotunda: Newser on expanding Pa’s hate crimes law
12 p.m., Forum Auditorium: Fallen Police Officers Memorial ceremony
1 p.m., Capitol Steps: Union workers rally for nuke industry jobs
1:30 p.m., Main Rotunda: Letter Carriers food drive kick-off
2:30 p.m., Main Rotunda: Mental Health Awareness Day event

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf 
attends that Police Officers Memorial ceremony in the Forum auditorium.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to longtime Friend O’the BlogBrittany Crampsie, in the office of Sen. Jay Costa. Greetings go out to a more recent friend, as well, Aja Beech, of Philadelphia. Congratulations and enjoy the day, ladies. Hope it’s a good one.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an old favorite from L.A. popsters, The Tyde, it’s ‘Do it Again, Again.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
St. Louis beat Dallas 4-1 on Sunday, evening their Central Division playoff series. Bostonfaces Columbus tonight, which could determine their Atlantic Conference series.

And now you’re up to date.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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