Saturday, January 21, 2006

Big Pharma & Insurance Co’s: 1, Seniors: 0

The lobbying clout of big pharmaceutical companies and the corresponding medical insurance companies is only too obvious with the enactment of the Bush drug plan. This blog has well noted the failings of the plan, both on a monetary and humane basis, due to Bush’s catering to the bottom line of the drug companies at seniors’ expense--42 million senior Americans, to be exact.

In case all of the carping on both sides of this issue sounds like partisan politics, here is a clear-cut opinion written by a member of the medical profession. He’s really displeased with the way congress let the constituents down—or sold them out:

From Los Angeles Times Op-Ed January 21, 2006:

It's a benefit, but for whom?

By Daniel J. Stone

DANIEL J. STONE is a internist and associate medical director at Cedars-Sinai Medical Group.

January 21, 2006

AS A GERIATRIC medicine specialist, I am confronted daily by the chaos and confusion of Medicare's Part D drug benefit. The program should reflect President Bush's ideals of "compassionate conservatism." Compassion would mean user-friendliness and easy access to affordable drugs. And a conservative plan would maximize "bang for the buck." Instead, the priorities of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies have trumped these objectives.
Economics 101 tells us that the largest purchasers have bargaining power to get the best prices. Medicare could have used this power to gain large discounts on behalf of seniors. Similar national bargaining entities in Canada and Europe allow foreign consumers to pay a third to one-half of U.S. drug prices. A single Medicare bargaining entity, however, threatened to place unprecedented price pressures on drug companies and might have reduced or eliminated the role of private insurers.

So Congress sacrificed Medicare's bargaining power in favor of a system in which multiple private insurers offer competing plans. This decision will ultimately transfer billions of dollars from seniors and the government to insurers and drug companies. Some claim the industry needs these resources to finance tomorrow's drug breakthroughs. Although the need for research dollars is real, it seems unfair for Medicare seniors to shoulder costs that also subsidize Canadian and European consumers...

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