Wednesday, January 11, 2006

John Edwards on Medicare Prescription Drug Program

(Following is an email from John Edwards on the Medicare drug program. I agree with Edwards as to the problems, and his solutions would be a step in the right direction, but there is a better overall solution. The current program should be eliminated and replaced by a program within Medicare to provide prescription drug coverage without providing huge government benefits to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.)

Medicare Corruption Taking a Toll on Our Seniors

Dear Friend,

We all know somebody — a parent, a grandparent, an older friend we talk to around the neighborhood — who is struggling to make heads or tails of the Republican Medicare prescription drug law. It’s just completely confusing, and I know it’s not the best that we can do for our seniors. It may, however, be the best we can do for the pharmaceutical industry, which should be no surprise since it was practically written by the big drug companies.

There’s a lesson to be learned: bad policy that puts special interests before the American people is the cost of the culture of corruption that pervades the Republican Congress and the White House. It is a lesson we see played out in the newspapers each morning and on the television news each night.

Democrats fought against this Medicare sham at the time, and now we’re offering three important solutions that could be implemented NOW: 1) Extend enrollment by six months to allow America’s seniors to make sense of the confusing options before they have to select the option that works best for them, 2) Allow re-importation of safe FDA approved drugs from Canada, which should bring down the costs of drugs in this country, and 3) Allow Medicare to bargain for lower prices on behalf of all Americans. It is particularly offensive that the drug company-written Medicare prescription drug law actually prohibits the government from negotiating with those companies for lower prices.

Today, I am asking you to please join my friends at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) by signing their petition to Congress: /

Whether it’s you, your family, or just an elderly friend, seniors across America are wondering why providing health care cannot be simpler. The reason is clear: the bill was not made for them. It was made for the Republican special interests and, in fact, much of it was even written by the pharmaceutical industry and its legions of lobbyists. It’s particularly troubling that this program doesn’t do more for the millions of seniors who struggle with poverty every day. Instead of looking out for the people who need our help the most, the Republicans sided with the people they always look out for — the powerful special interests.

Let’s look at a few numbers compiled at the time the bill was passed:

* Estimated increase in Drug Industry Profits: $182 billion
* Washington lobbyists employed by the Drug and HMO Industries: 952
* Amount spent by drug and HMO industries on lobbying in 2003: $141 million
* Political contributions from the drug industry to Republicans in 2002: $21.7 million (74% of total)
* Price of a one-month supply of Lipitor (the drug most frequently prescribed to seniors) with a Medicare Discount Card in 2003 survey: $67.07
* Price of a one-month supply of Lipitor on : $62.99

And that doesn’t even get to the confusing mess caused by the dozens and dozens of plans. It doesn’t mention the fact that while seniors are locked into a plan for a year, the providers have free rein to raise their rates at any time, which is particularly troubling for the seniors who are living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, re-importation of drugs from Canada — which even a top executive with Pfizer has said is perfectly safe — has been kept illegal to ensure pharmaceutical industry profits. And if that wasn’t enough, Medicare is barred from bargaining for lower prices like the VA does for veterans.

The bill was disgraceful when it was passed, but now the seniors among us are about to start paying the price. We have one last chance to get it right.


John Edwards

P.S. — This is about what kind of country we want to live in — do we want to stand together to make sure our seniors don’t have to choose between medicine and food, or will we instead allow the pharmaceutical companies to pad their wallets and to pay their lobbyists to keep Congress in their pockets?

I hope you’ll stand with me and the DCCC in telling Congress to do the right thing.


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