September 28, 2004
Medicare, Give or Take A Couple Hundred Billion - Its Only Money
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
In recent days, new developments have surfaced regarding the true price tag for the Medicare Prescription Drug bill that Bush signed into law last December. Newly released information shows that once again, Bush has concealed the true cost of the bill from Congress and the American people.
In 2003, while the bill was debated in Congress, Bush promised lawmakers that the bill would not cost more than $400 billion. After he got Congress to pass the version of the bill that was favorable to him and his cronies in the health care industry (industry), Bush submitted a budget to Congress that revealed the true estimate to be $534 billion.
And the situation just got worse. Bush is up to his old tricks again. While lawmakers were still adjusting to the little trick that cost us the extra $134 billion, on Sept 19, 2004, an article in the Washington Post (WP), reported that the White House budget office estimates spending related to the drug benefit could increase by another $42 billion.
Budget analysts now believe the program could cost as much $576 billion. "Using their own numbers, it costs over 10 years $42 billion more, and so therefore, it's $576 billion," said analyst, Richard Kogan.
But then hey, what's a couple of hundred billion, give or take. It's only money. I know, I know, here I am nitpicking again.
Standard Bush Policy - Lies, Lies, and More Lies
John Kerry says Bush has made a habit of deceiving the public and Congress on Medicare, beginning when his former Medicare administrator, Tom Scully, forced a top Actuary, Richard Foster, to withhold information from Congress during the debate over the prescription-drug bill, under the threat of being fired.
A GAO investigation determined that Scully had ordered Foster not to respond to requests on five separate dates. The GAO said the administration should have withheld Scully's salary for preventing a federal employee from providing correct cost estimates to Congress on a pending bill.
Bush, of course, refused to punish his co-conspirator for his participation in the prescription drug scam. So where is Scully now? Where else? Shortly after the bill passed, he trotted out of the White House for greener employment pastures in the health-care industry.
Having said all that, I don't know why I was surprised when I heard about Bush's latest trick. In what has by now become his usual and customary behavior, when Bush submitted the 2004 Medicare Trustees' Report, he left out a chart that showed seniors will be forced to spend 37% of their Social Security income on premiums, co-payments and out-of-pocket expenses medical expenses in 2006. That's more than 2 times the amount Bush projected last year before the bill was passed.
The new disclosure comes just days after seniors learned that their Medicare premiums were set to increase by 17% next year. On September 22, the Boston Globe reported that Medicare premiums have went from $50 in 2001 to $78.20 in 2005. Which means they have gone up more than 50% since Bush took office.
The chart was only provided after Rep Pete Stark, D-CA noticed it was missing from the report. Stark claimed Bush kept it hidden for good reason. "It doesn't look good to lie to grandma, so the Bush administration has withheld information and come up with other creative ways to mask the damage they have done to Medicare," he said.
The chart shows how much seniors spend in Social Security benefits for out-of pocket health care costs under Medicare, and is usually included in the Medicare Trustees' Report that is submitted to Congress.
According to the WP, the chart contains a detailed breakdown of the extra $176 billion in spending, and it "identifies $42 billion of that increase "as related to MMA," the initials of the Medicare Modernization Act, the new prescription drug law."
The President of the Medicare Rights Center, Robert Hayes said "we're in deep trouble," after he reviewed the projections. "The debacle facing consumers is even greater than this chart would suggest," he said, because "That does not count some of the most substantial expenses people have for health care, such as long-term care, vision, dental and preventive services not covered by Medicare," Hayes added.
Democrats accuse Bush of withholding the chart because it shows the new law does nothing to contain drug costs. Kerry said it proves seniors will "face dramatic reductions in their Social Security benefits due to rising Medicare costs," according to Newsday 9/14/04.
Sen Edward Kennedy, speaking on the floor of the Senate, described the prescription drug bill as "good for nothing," and after viewing the chart said, "this shows once again that it's high time for the Bush administration to level with the American people about its misguided Medicare law."
While Bush is ripping off seniors left and right, just listen to what the pathological liar is telling voters out on the campaign trail. With a straight face, he says the new Medicare law upholds a "moral responsibility to honor our senior citizens with good health care."
Excuse me for a minute, I think I'm going to be sick.
Kerry Will Lift Ban On Importing Cheaper Drugs
Bush could cut the prescription drugs cost in half if he would do just one simple thing. Remove the provision in the bill that makes it illegal to import cheaper drugs from other countries. Bush and his cronies in the drug industry are standing firm on their refusal to allow importation. And it looks like they will get away with it for now.
On September 18, 2004, while on the campaign trail, Kerry criticized Bush for "not backing a plan to re-import prescription drugs from Canada at a lower price," according to Daily Camera.com. Adding a prescription drug benefit without taking steps to lower drug costs is what is driving up Medicare premiums, Kerry said.
While speaking at a senior citizen center, Kerry told the audience that he would permit Americans to buy less expensive drugs from Canada, unlike Bush, who Kerry says, "has chosen to hurt seniors in America in favor of big drug companies and corporations."
On the stump, Kerry told senior citizens in Milwaukee exactly what Bush and his cronies are up to. "They passed a Medicare drug benefit that feeds the drug companies and feeds the HMOs, and they're more willing to push you off Medicare into an HMO. They put $139 billion of windfall profits into the pockets of the drug companies, coming right out of your pockets." Kerry said.
John Kerry & Peter Rost vs Bush & Industry Cronies Round #1
The Kerry campaign has gained a powerful ally in the fight to remove the ban on importing cheaper drugs from other countries. Kerry has the backing of Pfizer Vice President of marketing, Peter Rost. Rost, who is also a physician, first spoke out in favor of importation on September 11, 2004, at the annual meeting of the Society for Professional Journalists.
While speaking as a private citizen and not a Pfizer representative, Rost told Independent Media that he sees importation as a means of bringing down the cost of prescription drugs. As a doctor he feels a need to speak out against high prices that are hurting patients. "I love working in pharmaceutical business but I'm concerned about the direction it is taking," he said.
According to Rost, too many people cannot get the drugs that can save their lives. "We have to speak out for the people who can't afford drugs, in favor of free trade and against a closed market," he says.
Rost says "a political tidal wave is building which will forever change both the industry and many of its infamous business practices. It is sad to note that the drug industry today is equally poorly regarded as the tobacco companies, and this is a testament not only to the shortsighted foolishness of their management, but also to the fact that you can fool some of the customer some of the time, but not all of them all the time," Rost says.
He believes the drug companies are their own worst enemies. "They have antagonized grannies all over the US with their work to stop reimportation of cheaper drugs into the US, a practice that has been in place for many years in Europe. And anyone in marketing or public relations can tell you that no money in the world can help you win against millions of mad grandmothers."
Rost views Bush's prescription drug bill as the same old, same old, and says, "our politicians have pretended to pass bill after bill that will change this, but somehow those bills always had a loophole and were never implemented. Lot's of talk and posturing, no result."
But on a more positive note, he predicts "it's only a matter of time before the American public and the rest of the business community demand a stop to the price-gouging."
Gig Is Up On Bogus Safety Excuse Round #2
Although Bush, his drug industry cronies, and the FDA, have been harping about the dangers of buying prescription drugs from Canada for over a year now, when questioned, FDA officials could not provide the name of even one single person who was injured or killed by drugs bought in Canada.
Under the Bush administration, the FDA has lost its credibility with many lawmakers, who claim it is doing the bidding of the drug industry. "There's no question in my mind that the (FDA) is too dependent on the pharmaceutical industry for their attitudes and decision-making," said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who chairs a House subcommittee that's studied the Canadian drug issue.
"I had four hearings and I asked (FDA Associate Commissioner William Hubbard) to give me examples where people have been damaged by Canadian pharmaceuticals and reimportation, and he couldn't even give me one, not one," Burton added.
Peter Rost claims, "The safety issue is a made-up story," and that "the real concern about safety is about people who do not take drugs because they cannot afford it."
Rost spent 20 years marketing pharmaceuticals in the US and overseas and he notes that, "During my time responsible for a region in northern Europe, I never, not once, heard the drug industry, regulatory agencies, the government or anyone express any concern related to safety," said Rost. "Multinational pharmaceutical companies are using this excuse to disguise their true motive of protecting profits."
Rost says that he recognizes that FDA officials have concerns over safety, but finds it puzzling that " other regulatory agencies around the world did not have the same concerns, but instead elected to cooperate, creating the mutual recognition system within Europe."
He thinks some of the excuses against importation offered up by the industry and Bush are over the top. "The FDA may go too far when they try to imply that Al Quaeda would attack drug supplies in Canada," Rost said.
In fact, Rost thinks Americans should be insulted. "I have to say I think it is outright derogatory to claim that Americans would not be able to handle re-importation of drugs when the rest of the educated world can do this," he said.
Rost is convinced that we need to work within the legal framework including the interpretation of laws by various regulatory agencies. He says currently the FDA has said they will not civilly or criminally charge seniors who go to Canada for drugs. This area is still a grey zone, he says.
But Rost now believes lives are at stake, lives that can be saved and prolonged with appropriate drugs and when a government acts in a way that puts its citizens at risk, then it is morally appropriate to use this grey zone to save lives and lessen suffering, he says.
As an example of the hardship that patients face, Rost noted the results of a 2004 study on Diabetic Care. The study found that one out of every 3 elderly patients had to chose between food or insulin. Rost finds this unacceptable in a rich country like America.
According to Rost, "Americans die every day because they can't afford life-saving drugs," and he believes "it is completely immoral for a wealthy country like the United States to leave so many people stranded without drugs."
We're in a rush, because holding up a vote on reimportation, stopping good reimportation bills has a high cost. Not just in money, but in American lives. Every day Americans die because they can't afford life-saving drugs. We CAN get safe drugs from Europe and Canada. So let's get one with the vote!
Although he cautions that "only time will tell if there will be a movement so strong that it can defeat ingrained business practices of the richest companies in the world," Rost emphatically assures us that " Drugs from Canada are absolutely, positively safe."
Congress needs to move now to remove the barrier to importing cheaper drugs that will save lives. Rost says "we can get safe drugs from Europe and Canada, so let's get on with the vote."
Prescription Drug Scam Will Cost Bush The Election
The bottom line is that there is no logical excuse for barring the importation of cheaper drugs from other countries. Pure and simple, the provision was inserted in the bill to increase and protect the high profits of the drug companies.
There's only one problem, Bush underestimated the intelligence of senior citizens who make up 13% of the voting population. He obviously thought they'd never see through his prescription drug scam. Well he was dead wrong, and I will again repeat my prediction, that this one major blunder will cost him the election.
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
Evelyn Pringle is also the Founder
of Citizens for Honest Fighter Pilots.
Articles in the BuzzFlash Contributor section are posted as-is. Given the timeliness of some Contributor articles, BuzzFlash cannot verify or guarantee the accuracy of every word. We strive to correct inaccuracies when they are brought to our attention.