Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Drugs for Oil? We Need a New Slogan

The big pharma/medical insurance-for-profit conglomerate must feel like it’s Christmas in November. Once again mainstream media is obsessed with reporting the big bad news of the Iraq dilemma, in all its labyrinthine details, at the expense of almost totally ignoring the latest news about the debacle of the Bush-touted Medicare Part D inadequacies.

Part D was supposed to be the big bail-out for seniors to reduce the huge and escalating cost of prescription drugs. The “plan” is so full of catch-22’s and small-print problems that it was incomprehensible to many older folks (and regular middle-aged citizens as well) so that they didn’t sign up for it. Of the eligible 40 million seniors who were expected to buy their Part D card and utilize the discounts, 10 million elderly people did nothing. They didn’t understand it--didn’t want to pay for the card; or didn’t like the “doughnut hole” of missing benefits after the initial purchases of needed drugs.

The newly democratic-controlled congress has a better idea, led by Kucinich and Conyers (HR 676--the Conyers/Kucinich bill.), but the republicans are claiming there’s no need to reform the system which is coming in under budget:

"Republicans would have you believe that the drug and insurance companies have sacrificed profits in the name of competition, but nothing could be further from the truth," said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. "In fact, the dirty little secret is that costs are lower because of low enrollment and a slowdown in drug spending."

After Congress created the drug benefit in 2003, Medicare officials estimated that 39 million people would enroll or get their coverage through employers who receive a tax credit for providing a benefit. But the actual number turned out to be nearly 10 million less. AP 11/29/06

Kucinich takes a rational turn in an interview on Huffington Post:

There are 75 members of Congress signed on in support of the bill. We recognize that there are 46 million Americans who don't have health insurance, and there are another 50 million Americans who are under-insured; that the cost of healthcare has gone out of the reach of a large number of Americans, and so there's only one real solution, and that is to make healthcare not-for-profit. I mean healthcare should be established as a basic right in a democratic society. Every industrialized democracy has healthcare for its people.

Americans just don’t see the connection to their own situations, and the media has lost the thrust of invigorating the issues that affect Americans—this is the gist of Gore Vidal’s remarks in an interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS last night. Vidal said that Bush was able to attack and occupy Iraq because the electorate let him, and the fourth estate didn’t hassle him about it. I see the point, but I don’t get how millions of seniors, whose lives depend on accessing certain prescription drugs every month, are willing to stand by while the drug and insurance lobbies convince the legislators, who make the rules, to let these high costs remain in place.

Actually, I do get it—I was taught to question authority, and to take nothing for granted, as a way of getting closer to the truth. The generation before me was taught to take everything on its face as a matter of trust and acceptance with a benign protective government which got them out of the depression and saved their way of life, by winning WWII. The generation in charge now, sees the world as dog-eat-dog, get your share before someone else does. Any means to an end is encouraged, and that end is to nurture and protect the immediate family. The larger human family?—that’s not part of the scenario. As Vidal explains, the electorate needs to be educated in order to pose the questions, and demand answers, for its needs. The electorate needs to know more about the society as a whole, not just the travails of the neighborhood association. That education is the missing link. It helps to know what you really need.

There is no ready solution to the quagmire of politics and special interests mixed with life necessities and killing and bloodshed. Just as there is no easy answer to the nightmare our leadership has caused by invading Iraq. Since the voters repudiated the Bush policies in the last election, don’t they want changes, and adjustments, to those policies, with a high priority placed on lower prices for drugs, and medical care, for seniors, and for everyone, along with getting out of Iraq, of course? Isn’t that what we all really need?

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