Money Driven Medicine: Rewriting the Storyline on the Prescription Drug Benefit

Maggie Mahar is the author of the books Money Driven Medicine and Bull. She's going to join us for a bit to talk about corruption in the medical industry.

In the June 6 edition of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol underlines a new spin on the prescription drug plan: "the May 15 deadline for signing up for the Medicare prescription drug benefit passed with some 90 percent of eligible seniors enrolled, and most of them telling pollsters they're pretty happy. Given early rumblings that the program might be a nightmare of red tape, this is good news for the administration."

Which polls?  He didn't say, of course.  And as of mid-March, only 6 million of the 27 million who had signed up chose to do so. Of the rest, many were automatically enrolled, and in the weeks that followed, many  enrolled to avoid a May 15 deadline which promised lifetime penalties.  Kristol was lying, in other words, but it's the kind of lie that's so tempting for journalists looking for a new angle.  And it's working.  Journalists have already begun re-writing the  prescription drug story line. Rather than calling it an "unmitigated disaster" or pointing out how the bill was passed through open bribery and corrupt lobbying by pharmaceutical companies, they're beginning to portray it as a work in progress" -- a perspective that that has been picked up by newspapers across the nation.

The storyline goes like this, roughly.  Sure, the plan may need some "fine-tuning," but "the cost of the drug benefit has declined from a projected $737 billion over 10 years to $675 billion." In other words, it's only costing taxpayers $275 billion more than the administration pretended when it pushed the bill through Congress.

It's pretty nice of those pharmaceutical companies to save us so much money.  We can spend it on another fresh coat of paint for the schools in Iraq.

Tags: George Bush, Health care, Medicare, pharmaceutical industry, Prescription Drugs (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

Great work, Maggie!!

Maggie,

Thanks for joining us here. I've read parts of your book...it's a great and valuable piece of work (and it sure looks like it took a lot of work to get it done).  

Am I right that in this "work in progress," the insurance companies will have lots of flexibility to increase rates and change policies in the years ahead...that they've basically pulled a bait & switch on many of these unsuspecting enrollees?

I mostly knew Tauzin for his corrupt treatment of telecom issues, but he's shamelessly outdone himself with healthcare, where people's lives are at stake.  In my book, he's a criminal.

by mitchipd 2006-06-01 07:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Money Driven Medicine: Rewriting the Storyline

Eliminate the prescription drug benefit.
Eliminate Medicare.
Eliminate Medicaid.
Eliminate Veterans health benefits.
Eliminate health benefits for Government employees.

Use the money to fund health care for EVERY American.

Anything less is just rearrainging deck chairs on the Hindenburg.

by wayward 2006-06-02 03:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Money Driven Medicine: Rewriting the Storyline

Eliminate the insurance companies.

by Matt Stoller 2006-06-02 05:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Money Driven Medicine: Rewriting the Storyline

The preferred way I've seen discussed is to eliminate all the tax deductions given to individuals and corporations to buy insurance and allocate those funds to Medicare, which has overhead of about 1%-2% compared to 20%-30% for insurance companies. You provide access free to anyone making less than say 400% of poverty level and then you're able to buy in for a small fee that increases progressively the more you earn.

Then you fix Medicare Part D so as that medicare is able use it's tremendous buying power to negotiate for significant saves on drug prices.

Do that and you just covered everyone with out spending any more money than is already spent and with government pressure exerted on the pharmaceutical companies prices will drop to sane levels and we'd probably even see some savings begin to accumulate from that. That's without even mentioning how much money will be saved by people no longer using ER's as their only source of medical care as they can't afford much less expensive preventive care.

by Quinton 2006-06-02 10:21AM | 0 recs

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