Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Unrelated yet Part of a Whole

In the wake of the huge immigration rallies some stories have taken a back-burner position in the news:

Newsweek reports a new video game whose object is to kill as many illegal immigrants as possible.

"I certainly defend the game," says self-described white supremacist Tom Metzger. "I told a Mexican activist that he better be happy that we're just playing a game on a computer, because the temper of thousands ... is reaching the boiling point."

My son won’t be playing that one.

The mind-numbing overload of scandal cases makes the next story less than stunning just because it is a minor one of so many:

Dr. Lester M. Crawford, the former commissioner of food and drugs, is under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury over accusations of financial improprieties and false statements to Congress, his lawyer said Friday.—NY Times April 28, 2006

What makes me take notice is that even though the issues are complicated, this case shows that the implication of government complicity in business-for-profit is rampant.

The Times story, boiled down, is this: Crawford is under criminal investigation, which only became public when the Center for Reproductive Rights sued the FDA in federal court in New York for holding up release of the abortion pill plan B--and Crawford's lawyer had to disclose that he was under investigation for selling stock in 2004--or his wife sold the stock—it’s all very complicated. The interesting fact is that without the consumer lawsuit, the criminal investigation would not have come to media light.

Not to be confused with Plan B, Plan D continues to be a disaster in the making, while Bush and his health advisers tout its total success in helping defray drug costs for seniors.

Months after the government rolled out the most important new healthcare benefit for the elderly in decades, beneficiaries are still discovering new catches in the program's complicated inner workings — details that can defy the scrutiny of even the most careful consumers.Caught in a Tangle of Fine Print, LA Times, May 1, 2006

Just when John Q. Senior thought the government was helping him out, the private big-business drug makers found a way around having to charge lower prices for beneficiaries, based on a loophole wrinkle in the "formulary," or list of drugs, known as a “tier.”

While all plans have long lists of covered drugs, or formularies, many also have separate categories, or tiers, for some of those drugs — often those priced at more than $500 a month. Drugs in the upper tiers carry substantial extra costs for patients.

The coverage tiers are just the latest example coming to light of how some of the finer points of the plan don't become clear until seniors have signed up. Unless beneficiaries look closely at plan materials, they may not realize their drug is on a higher tier. Similar wrinkles have included restrictions on some mental health drugs, seemingly modest co-payments that cumulatively strain the budgets of low-income seniors, and coverage of intravenous drugs — but not the supplies and nursing assistance to administer them.- LA Times, May 1, 2006

You’d think an American senior citizen would have learned by now that life isn’t fair, and quit carping about the high cost of drugs to keep alive. Then again, you’d think the government would do its job and “promote the general welfare” of these citizens.

IN case you haven’t seen these pictures yet, this was in an email from The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC):

“These pictures were taken a few minutes after a press conference where Speaker Hastert preached to the American public about his commitment to lowering gas prices. As you can see, that's him a few minutes later and a block down the road getting out of the "prop" hydrogen car he drove up in and getting back into his luxury SUV. Photo credit: Associated Press”

These stories are not front-page, but they are related by an inherent importance to acknowledging the defects in our society. As we understand what’s wrong, we can work to fix it. This year, every member of congress is up for election. That’s the good news.

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