Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You Didn't Get Kissed First For Your Viagra: Medicare Drug Plan Just Another Way To Pick Americans' Pockets

By Manifesto Joe

I know it's tiresome to keep saying, "I told you so." But when you see people going wrong on first principles, over and over, it's hard not to say so. The latest news about the highly touted Medicare prescription drug plan is a prime example.

If you're old enough, or if you have parents or in-laws who are, you may remember the sales pitch: coverage for everybody 65 or older who signs up, regardless of income or health status; and lower prices through federal negotiations with drug companies.

Well, guess what, Gramps -- you didn't get kissed first for your Viagra. Just like every piecemeal "reform" of the dysfunctional U.S. health-care system, this one turned out to be just one more way for the stockholders and the boardroom boys to pocket more quid. When these bills are written, the lobbyists always seem to work out the right angles.

This in recently from the Washington Post:

"... private insurers in the new Medicare prescription drug program may be losing their leverage over drug manufacturers as they try to hold down medicine costs for seniors and the federal government, House investigators have found.

"Prices for 10 of the most prescribed brand-name medications have gone up an average of 6.8 percent since December under Medicare private insurance plans, while wholesale prices for the same drugs have risen just 3 percent, according to House Oversight and Government Reform investigators. ...

"Premiums for Medicare drug plans have jumped 13 percent over last year, when the drug plans went into effect, the investigators say.

"And the rebates that insurance companies are getting from drug manufacturers are expected to be 4.6 percent of total drug costs, down from 5.2 percent last year. A year ago, Medicare actuaries had expected insurers in 2007 to secure manufacturers' rebates of 6 percent, then pass those savings on to seniors and the government."

It seems like every time U.S. government, at the federal or state level, tries to do some sort of piecemeal "reform" of our "system" like this, we should all check to see if we still have our wallets.

There are so many examples of how patients and taxpayers are ultimately robbed in this system, it's ad infinitum. But permit me one personal anecdote, not related to Medicare.

I have a bad foot, related to a work injury in my youth. I went to a podiatrist to get special shoes to relieve pain, and he gave me specifications to take to an orthotics provider. I didn't have to pay out of pocket for a workers comp prescription, but I was stunned by the cost for the insurer: $600. When I went back to my podiatrist with these ugly, Frankenstein-like shoes, he shook his head and commented, "They always overcharge for these."

I ended up having to jump through a lot of hoops to get those shoes paid for, because of that price. I had to drive to another city for independent medical evaluation, etc. Finally, I got approval.

Well, the shoes sucked. My foot hurt as badly or worse. I would have done as well with $16.99 trash from K-Mart. I ended up buying from a German manufacturer reputed to make shoes as good or better than orthotic companies. Cost out of pocket: $210. They're great -- I'm wearing them right now, as I type. And they don't look like something Boris Karloff playing Frankenstein's monster would wear. ("Friend -- Goooood!)

But, back to Medicare: What is very comparable is that ultimately, somebody pays for this blatant profiteering. And I can guarantee that it isn't the stockholders, the drug companies, the insurers, the hospitals or the doctors. It's us: the patients, insured and uninsured; and of course, the taxpayers.

And, don't think there aren't even more pass-ons, all of them to poor people. In Texas, where I live, Medicaid recipients have started paying co-payments for medications. This is a serious matter for people on very limited fixed incomes. Some can't afford it. But of course, these are people who have absolutely no political power.

And, guess who was governor of this state when these Medicaid cuts were passed? (His current address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.)

I eagerly await Michael Moore's new film in hopes that he will blast the cover off this clip joint of a "system." Notice that no other country on the planet is emulating ours. Wonder why?

Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas.


Cranky Daze said...

Sorry to hear about your foot injury. I've carried around a spinal injury ever since a "head-on" car accident back in the 1970s, so I can sympathize with the problems you've faced in trying to get a chronic condition corrected. I gave up years ago when an x-ray showed that a piece of bone was broken out of one vertebrae and was pressing on the spinal cord...creating a constant rocking sensation. Life for me is, and has been for over six years, like living on a boat. The only time it eases is when I lie down. Doctors have suggested surgery to remove that wayward chunk of bone...not even a chance anyone is going to get that close to my spinal cord with a knife. None of this has anything to do with Medicare, other than this interesting little tidbit. When I became a "senior citizen" and Junior's wonderful prescription plan began paying for part of my medication (and sending me bills from insurance companies for premiums every month) I noticed that the cost of my prescriptions nearly doubled from when I was paying for them myself.

Have you noticed that on cable channels, easily half of the commercials we see/hear every day are from drug companies trying to hawk their product?...and I'm convinced they make up illnesses. I swear they're trying to get us all addicted to something...anything, as long as it increases their sales and bottom line.

By the way, Re: our exchange about Jerry Falwell over on my blog, here's a URL...check it out. It's one of those "Gee, I wish I'd said that" moments.


Manifesto Joe said...

How Il Doofus' Medicare drug plan affects people seems to vary. My mother-in-law's financial burden marginally improved. My mother, on the other hand, is actually paying more. It's as though it was a shell game. As long as there are examples of people who benefited, they can studiously ignore the cases in which "beneficiaries" have not.

Anyway, I hope there is something they can eventually do for this condition, in your vertebrae. Doesn't sound like a good way to go through life.

Rurikid-Vierotchka said...

Hello Joe - glad you enjoyed my blog. I have very eclectic tastes, and all the music I post there is music I really love and consider of good quality. Did you take a peek at my artwork there?

Sorry to hear about your foot - I presume you've gone over to Dr. Scholl and Danasko... :)

Unfortunately, it would appear that the new French president has every intention of emulating Bush's America - but it won't go far, because when the government tries to do something the people don't like, they organize massive strikes all over the country, basically blocking the whole country, and stick to their guns until the government relents. Vive la France, vive les fran├žais! :D

It would seem that my comment over on the Cowboy was prescient... I am known to be highly psychic. :)

Manifesto Joe said...

I was dismayed by the outcome of that election. Royal seemed to represent a much better future for France. But it is true, as you say, the French people are not known for suffering fools in high office gladly.

I wish I could say the same for Americans, and for the astonishingly docile Texas subculture into which I was born. The common people here seem to have accepted official larceny and exploitation as a normal way of life. "Troublemakers," like a few of us who are doing this blogging, are very much in the minority.

Marc McDonald said...

>>>Unfortunately, it would appear
>>>that the new French president
>>>has every intention of
>>>emulating Bush's America

I don't think this is the case. Maybe the French believe this, but, if so, they're simply misinformed about American society today.
Bush is so far to the right that I don't think Europeans can really comprehend it.
For that matter, even Clinton was a trillion miles to the right of what the political mainstream is in today's Europe.
If you're a European, you simply can't understand what it is like to be working class and living in America today. The government here has utter contempt for those who're not rich.
I'm sure most governments around the world serve the interests of the wealthy to one degree or another. But in the U.S. today, our unbelievably corrupt and evil government has developed this to an art form.
But really, it's even more sinister than that. The U.S. government's only role these days is to steal from the working class and give to the wealthy.
It's Socialism for the Rich.
I'm not saying that Europe is a Utopia (no place is). All I'm saying is that, if you're European, you simply have no clue as to what it's like to be working class and living in America.
You have no idea of what it's like to have a government that shits down your throat daily and then charges you (via taxes) for doing so.
I believe that American society is on the verge of a meltdown. People are goddamn sick and tired and fed up with the leech class and their bought-and-paid-for politicians in Congress.
Eventually, people will take to the streets and forcibly take back power in this nation. I can't wait for it to happen. I'd suspect that I'm not alone.

Marc McDonald