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Tilting at Windmills

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September 25, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

YE OLDE DONUTTE HOLE....It's coming soon, thanks to the Republican Party treating the Medicare prescription bill as a political football instead of a serious policy issue:

"Virtually everyone who calls to say they've been denied coverage, they're shocked," said Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a nonprofit that helps seniors navigate Medicare. "Trying to explain that this is the way the program was created by Congress angers folks who think it makes no sense. Many people feel blindsided."

The coverage gap was one of the most contentious elements of the 2003 legislation that created the new benefit. It ends federal payments for a person's drug purchases once an annual spending limit is reached, resuming them only after the beneficiary has spent thousands of dollars out of pocket.

As I've said before, I would have been willing to cut the budget for the Medicare prescription bill by a third if Republicans had just been willing to let serious policymakers craft a program that was wholly dedicated to getting prescription drugs into the hands of seniors as efficiently as possible. But they wanted to play games instead. Result: a bad program, and one that costs more than a good program would have cost.

Your Republican Congress at work.

Kevin Drum 2:12 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (64)

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Comments

The elderly poor are especially affected by this. They really got screwed. When the drug benefit was passed, the states startd kicking the elderly poor out of medicaid programs, where they got their medications for a $1.00 co-pay and they received appropriate medications.

They immediately saw co-pays skyrocket, and old people were parading across our tv screens during the evening news, Live from Walgreens.

Now the donut hole kicks in, just as they had made the adjustments to accomodate the higher co-pays, and now they are denied coverage again as they fall through the rabbit hole - er, I mean donut hole.

Posted by: Joyfully Subversive on September 25, 2006 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

just in time for midterms ...

I guess the question is whether people are more worried about paying for their cardiac meds or about gay sex and fetal rights.

Posted by: Nads on September 25, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

Snowflake rights.:)

Son of a bitch. Chopper will be here in seven minutes. I'm taking O-neg out of the cooler. This is probably it, the morning run starts in an hour.

Posted by: Joyfully Subversive on September 25, 2006 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

CLICK THE LINK. ALWAYS CLICK THE LINK. Kevin Drum doesn't point out most seniors will not be affected by the "doughnut hole" and any problems can easily be solved by choosing plans more carefully.

Link

"Mark Merritt, president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, stressed that the majority of seniors will not reach the gap. Many who will could delay it by more than two months by switching to generic drugs and using mail-order pharmacies, he said.

"There's been a lot of hand-wringing about it and very little information about what people can do to stay out of it," said Merritt, whose organization represents companies that administer drug benefit programs for employers and health insurance carriers.

Another thing seniors can do is choose their drug plans more carefully for 2007 when the open enrollment period begins Nov. 15."

Posted by: Al on September 25, 2006 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

yeah Al ... the world's the oyster for the seniors that survive. hell, the repubs seem to have devised a way to kill even more seniors than a French winter.

Posted by: Nads on September 25, 2006 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

The usual "activists and anecdotes" article.

Polls show most people are satisfied with the program, which explains the dead silence on this subject in the media for the past few months.

Posted by: arthur on September 25, 2006 at 3:14 AM | PERMALINK

The Medicare prescription drug program is a perfect example of what you get when people who don't believe in government try to govern. They intentionally designed a program that was meant to fail. It's a Republican-style civics lesson. Show those Democrat-leaning old people that government can't be counted on to help them when they need it most. They should grow up and act like good Republicans and take care of themselves. Don't they know that the government is the problem, not the solution.?

And while they were at it they made it into a exercise in Republican style democracy by turning it into another corporate welfare program for big pharma and the insurance industry. In Republican democracy, you vote with your dollars; and, of course, corporations have more dollars then people. A big win-win for the R's.

It's just Republicans doing what they do best screwing the little guy and rewarding the fat cats. What's disturbing and inexcusable is all of the Democrats that voted for the bill. What were they thinking? They don't deserve to call themselves Democrats, and they don't deserve to be re-elected.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvarka on September 25, 2006 at 3:16 AM | PERMALINK

Polls show most people are satisfied with the program, which explains the dead silence on this subject in the media for the past few months.
Posted by: arthur

yeah ... when "only one in five" realize that they have a plan with a significant gap in coverage, I'd expect pretty decent satisfaction, too. ignorance being bliss, and all.

Posted by: Nads on September 25, 2006 at 3:35 AM | PERMALINK

Well, if they're dead they can't complain...or vote.

Posted by: j on September 25, 2006 at 3:42 AM | PERMALINK

Thomas1, Al, et al,

Republicans believe in severely penalizing the sickest people in our society. Why, when we have the leverage through our government to make drug purchases affordable for everyone?

What have you got against sick people? Old people?? Poor people???

Free markets work efficiently only when people are young and healthy. Try thinking of health care as an investment in human capital, if that helps.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 25, 2006 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

The Donut hole was just a test. The real goal is to write the Ice Floe Act of 2007, where seniors are put onto ice floes and pushed out to sea, saving lots of money that can be given to Haliburton and Paris Hilton.

Unfortunately, GOP-led climate change is making ice floes much more scarce. Man, these guys are even incompetent at hating...

Posted by: craigie on September 25, 2006 at 3:49 AM | PERMALINK

Craigie,

:-)

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 25, 2006 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

I will continue to visit enjoyed the reading thanks

Posted by: Alena on September 25, 2006 at 5:25 AM | PERMALINK

irrespective of how one feels about this program, or the politics that were involved in its creation, it's a sad commentary on the state of political awareness that so many people are still unaware of the doughnut hole's existence. This was vigorously discussed at the time, and seems to be at least mentioned in every article about the plan that I've seen.

Posted by: jhm on September 25, 2006 at 6:39 AM | PERMALINK

For the $400 billion we have pissed down our collective legs in Iraq, we could have funded national health insurance for all Americans and wouldn't have administrative abominations like the "doughnut hole".

Conservatives - penny wise and pound foolish....

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 25, 2006 at 6:53 AM | PERMALINK

"which explains the dead silence on this subject in the media for the past few months."

aside from arthur's awful choice of metaphor, there is also his naive view that Rupert Murdoch get up in the morning, reads the latest polls, and decides to lead with the stories of most interest to the greatest number of people.

Posted by: MarkC on September 25, 2006 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: amr铃声 on September 25, 2006 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

Al is sure to help his dear old mother choose the best drug plan. Right, dear? You will come up from the basement at some time, right?

Posted by: Al's Mommy on September 25, 2006 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, at first I though that AZ Senator John Kyl didn't have anything to do with that horrid bill. Especially after his office had some folks jail that were hanging around his office, demanding more info just before this particular bill was passed. But I found out that Senator Kyl was actually instrumental in crafting this bill for the Bushies and war on the elderly.

And Sen. Kyl comes from a big retirement state. In Arizona, due to the very warm climate, it is a haven for snowbirds and for a lot of those seniors in the Del Webb communtity, it must be getting very close to donut hole time.

Democratic challenger Jim Pederson should really focus a lot of leaflets in the Sun City area. Elderly people maybe conservative so I know they don't like this wasteful bill and Pederson should sure let those folk know exactly who drafted it.

Posted by: Cheryl on September 25, 2006 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

Not surprising that "some folks feel blindsided"...given the amount of actual engagement with information most of our population exhibits. Also, many affected people are elderly and needed advocates to sort out the details of this program because EVERYTHING must be couched in lawyerese so to delude and distract those affected. How difficult would it have been for a CLEAR and CONSISE presentation of this program to be devised and given to people considering it's implications? PRETTY DARN DIFFICULT, I believe, because of all the "bait and switch" included in order to provide cover for the pharmacutical companies. We are all being buried by the way that bills are crafted and loaded making it darn near impossible for EVEN our elected representatives to read and understand and explain them.

ARE YOUR EYES OPEN YET???

Posted by: Dancer on September 25, 2006 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

And what is wonderful is that many of those who are hitting the donut hole will hit it between now and election day.

What is absolutely appalling about this is that the FULL PRICE of drugs is being used to determine when you hit the coverage cap. You can be spending $50 out of pocket and it will be credited like $2000.

When you talk to a senior, remind them that Bush wants to do to Social Security what he already has done to Medicare.

Posted by: POed Lib on September 25, 2006 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Al said:

CLICK THE LINK. ALWAYS CLICK THE LINK. Kevin Drum doesn't point out most seniors will not be affected by the "doughnut hole" and any problems can easily be solved by choosing plans more carefully.
Posted by: Al on September 25, 2006 at 2:45 AM
Dear Al, I clicked that link, and I saw the WaPo article where I learned that silly Kevin Drum was (according to a lobbyist for health insurance companies) "wringing his hands" for a few million people who don't deserve our sympathy because they stupidly bought the wrong policy, from an intentionally confusing menu of options.

Al, you say those despicably stupid seniors could have easily solved all their problems by simply choosing the correct policy, but you don't quote the article where it says those stupid seniors would have had to select a higher monthly premium.

Al, you also neglect to mention that the plan managers can change the features of their plan in the middle of the plan year, and a senior's personal medical situation can change in the middle of the plan year, but a senior isn't allowed to change plans in the middle of the plan year.

Al, the whole scheme is stupid. Isn't that something on which both liberals and conservatives can agree? The scheme violates conservative values and it violates liberal values.

Al, are you stupid, yourself, or are you a paid troll, hired by the health insurance companies and posting here to defend our national kleptocracy?

Posted by: sysprog on September 25, 2006 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe they're counting on killing off the seniors before the election.

Posted by: MNPundit on September 25, 2006 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Bill Clinton will be covered by Medicare if his head explodes.

I like how FDR's progams have been running for 50 years yet we still have a poverty problem. So what is the answer?

Of course! More government programs! Shall we put Brownie in charge of the medical industry?

Posted by: Orwell on September 25, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

In theory Medicare is a kind of insurance. The retiree's benefits are supposedly earned by what s/he paid in during her/his working years. In fact, the benefits are so much greater than what was paid in that Medicare is more like a welfare program. Workers are paying for benefits to a group of retirees.

Looked at as welfare, the most glaring inequity is that Medicare covers rich retirees. Lower class workers are subsidizing health care for the rich.

The doughnut was a clumsy attempt to make the prescription drug provision more equitable. As the WaPo article points out, the drug provision is designed to give more coverage to poor people. It also gives more coverage to those whose drug costs are unusually high.

I agree with Kevin that the doughnut is a clumsy way to achieve those goals. A more straightforward way would be to reduce Medicare benefits based on some sort of means test. AARP and Dems won't agree to this. They want universal coverage, even for the rich. So, the reasonable solution that Kevin wants isn't going to come about.

From a political POV, the doughnut issue is a useful talking point for the Dems. They failed to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare and Bush succeeded. Thanks to the doughnut, they can comnplain that he did so in the wrong way.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 25, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Dear ex-liberal, it's not just a talking point, it's causing genuine pain to actual people.

Of course, as an "ex-liberal" your main concern is to re-frame the issue by switching from words, like "insurance", that have good vibes, to words like "welfare", that have bad vibes. So are you a natural born re-framer, or are you a paid troll? But either way ...

Dear "ex-liberal", your language re-framing skills are pretty good, and show that you'll do anything to switch the focus away from the actual suffering of real people.

Posted by: sysprog on September 25, 2006 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Those damn Republicans passed the prescription drug program that should have had OUR name on it! Our program was more expensive, sure, but we were going to "negotiate" prices with those big pharmacy corporations.

Yeah, we were going to grab the cojones of Big Pharm and squeeeeeze until they were on their knees, tears streaming, wanting to make a REAL deal on the price controls. Oh, the campaign contributions would have been GLORIOUS!

Whoops...did I say that last part out loud?

Posted by: dnc on September 25, 2006 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, try to be informed, willya? the dems didn't "fail" to add a prescription drug benefit: they believed that when we could afford such a benefit, we should add it. That time finally came by 2001, only the dems weren't in charge.

and the dem solution - indeed, the sentient human being solution - to the "hole" was to allow the government to, you know, negotiate for better prices, an anathema to the gop, whose whole idea for this bill was to help the pharmaceutical industry.

if you're really an ex-liberal, you were a pretty dumb liberal.

Posted by: howard on September 25, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

In theory Medicare is a kind of insurance. The retiree's benefits are supposedly earned by what s/he paid in during her/his working years. In fact, the benefits are so much greater than what was paid in that Medicare is more like a welfare program. Workers are paying for benefits to a group of retirees.

You tell 'em, ex-liberal -- go right ahead and tell America's seniors that they're on a "welfare program," and that they're sponging off the younger generation. If that won't endear the Republicans to senior citizens I don't know what will....

Posted by: Stefan on September 25, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

howard wrote: the dems didn't "fail" to add a prescription drug benefit: they believed that when we could afford such a benefit, we should add it. That time finally came by 2001, only the dems weren't in charge.

How conveeenient!

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 25, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

"Dear ex-liberal, it's not just a talking point, it's causing genuine pain to actual people."

He won't respond to this. The furthest thing from a pub's mind is actual people.

Posted by: Ace Franze on September 25, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

like i say, ex-liberal, if you really were once a liberal, you were a very dumb one. convenience, of course, has nothing to do with it.

Following on a series of bipartisan actions under the bush administration, the clinton administration raised taxes in 1993 and strictly enforced paygo rules. as a result, we turned from an enormous deficit to a surplus. al gore promised to use part of that surplus to institute a medicare prescription drug benefit.

george bush promised to use all of that surplus on tax cuts. and on a prescription drug benefit. and then proceeded to use it on a military buildup and the war in iraq. in short, he spent the same surplus three times.

as i say, convenient has nothing to do with it, and only an ill-informed and once foolish liberal would think otherwise.

Posted by: howard on September 25, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

It's Bush's compassionate conservatism hard at work, royally screwing over the elderly. It stange when one consider that older folk usually vote Republican.

This was an awful bill, but Bush doesn't have to worry about it, he not ever going to run for re-election again, so it's not Bush's problem.

AND the GOP didn't care, anything for short term gain, I'm sure big Pram put a lot of money in campaign coffer and favors on the table. I least the GOP won't care unless or until seniors wiseup and vote Democrat. Don't like being stuck with Bush Big Pham favor bill $$$$, THAN DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN.

Posted by: Cheryl on September 25, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

I would have been willing to cut the budget for the Medicare prescription bill by a third if Republicans had just been willing to let serious policymakers craft a program that was wholly dedicated to getting prescription drugs into the hands of seniors as efficiently as possible.

And as long as you're wishing, you might as well ask for a pony.

Speaking of wishing, Kevin, don't you think it's high time you banned Charlie once and for all?

Posted by: Gregory on September 25, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Ace Franze wrote: "Dear ex-liberal, it's not just a talking point, it's causing genuine pain to actual people."

This issue is causing frustration and annoyance, not genuine pain. (Maybe the word "genuine" is supposed to mean "figurative.")

As I see it, seniors were given an unexpected favor -- partial coverage for their prescription drugs. This benefit wasn't reflected in the amount they paid in. Nobody expected that Bush would initiate this new benefit.

Now Ace Franze complains that this gift is causing "genuine pain" because it wasn't an even more generous gift. Ace reasons that the Dems who had years to deal with this need and did nothing do care about actual people, while the Reps, who did do something, don't care about people. That sounds backwards to me.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 25, 2006 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Time to remind seniors:

What the repukeliscum did to Medicare, they have promised to do to Social Security.

If they win in November, they are coming for your social security in December.

Posted by: POed Lib on September 25, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

howard, are you familiar with the Church Lady character from Saturday Night Live? "How conveeenient" was her trademark comment for dubious excuses.

The reality is prescription drugs weren't nearly as significant a part of health care when Medicare was started. That's why they weren't included. Thanks to the development of advanced, new medicines, prescription drugs are now a huge part of health care, but also very expensive.

George Bush noticed that Medicare ought to provide coverage and took a first step in that direction. He gets credit for that step. All the after-the-fact woulda's, coulda's, shoulda's in the world won't change that.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 25, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

As I see it, seniors were given an unexpected favor -- partial coverage for their prescription drugs. This benefit wasn't reflected in the amount they paid in. Nobody expected that Bush would initiate this new benefit.

Another great Republican campaign theme: seniors, the drugs you take to stay alive and out of pain are just a "favor." We gave them to you as a gift (not as your due for a lifetime of hard work) and we can take them away, so stop your ungrateful whining.

Yes, with framing like that I don't see how Republicans can fail....

Posted by: Stefan on September 25, 2006 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

George Bush noticed that Medicare ought to provide coverage and took a first step in that direction. He gets credit for that step. All the after-the-fact woulda's, coulda's, shoulda's in the world won't change that.

What is gonna happen is that, between now and Nov. 8, more and more will hit the Donut hole and will be forcibly reminded that the profits of the drug companies have soared, while seniors are saving no money at all.

Posted by: POed Lib on September 25, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

POed Lib wrote: What the repukeliscum did to Medicare, they have promised to do to Social Security.

I agree. What the "repukeliscum" did was to add optional benefits to Medicare.

And, they want to add an optional benefit to Social Security as well -- the flexibility to choose to invest part of one's contribution in securities, if one wishes to do so.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 25, 2006 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

From the article:

Even with the doughnut hole, most beneficiaries are better off financially than they were before the drug benefit was created, when many seniors had to fend for themselves all year long.

But I guess that's why they call it an "entitlement." You take the benefit and bitch that it wasn't more.

And did anybody notice this?

Dan Wojehowski, 47, of Smyrna, N.Y., takes six drugs for disabling depression and severe back problems. Last year he was able to get five of them free through drug companies' patient-assistance programs. But when the Medicare benefit started, many of those programs sent people there instead.

In other words, he used to get his drugs for FREE from Evil Big Pharm. How does that work into the talking points?


Posted by: enrique on September 25, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

The reality is prescription drugs weren't nearly as significant a part of health care when Medicare was started. That's why they weren't included. Thanks to the development of advanced, new medicines, prescription drugs are now a huge part of health care, but also very expensive.

that's not entirely honest, ex-lib ... Rx meds ARE expensive, but they're still cheaper than prolonged hospitalizations and procedures, which medicare has always covered. The changing nature of medicine, even old people medicine, is a trend towards outpatient.

that will mean meds, cheap ones and inexpensive ones. everyone in healthcare realizes this, and finaces reflec this.

George Bush noticed that Medicare ought to provide coverage and took a first step in that direction. He gets credit for that step. All the after-the-fact woulda's, coulda's, shoulda's in the world won't change that.
Posted by: ex-liberal

again, much like Iraq, you seem to be satisfied with some response, ANY response, that appears to address the issue, no matter how ineffectual it is. bush gets credit for pushing a bad plan which results in handouts to the pharma industry and leaves a substantial number of seniors in a financial lurch -- nothing more.

The fact that he turned down better plans because they required repealing tax breaks for the rich simply underscores that he pushed a sub-optimal plan. His wealthy donor base and big pharma benefit at the expense of people forgoing breast cancer meds and taking their cardiac meds out on their Visa.

... and please explain to me how you know that a breast cancer survivor having to change her oncologists' medication regimen around is simply "figurative" pain. My Mom's a breastcancer survivor; this shouldn't have had to have been an option.

Posted by: Nads on September 25, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, your inability to read, and therefore to understand anything, is shown when you claim above that I said something which in fact I only quoted. Are you an hysterical Muslim?

Posted by: Ace Franze on September 25, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

mhr:

Shut up. SHUT UP! There IS no Social Security problem. There will NEVER be a Social Security problem. It will all settle out all by itself. Really.

The Medicare funding problem? Sorry, my cell phone is cutting out. Hello?

Posted by: dnc on September 25, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

See, government can't do nuthin' right!

Seriously, my mom (a liftime Republican and once a huge Bush supporter) is F**KING PISSED about this program.

Posted by: Red on September 25, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Ace, I know you quoted that comment, but I assumed you quoted it because you agreed with it. If you had some other purpose in quoting that comment, then I apologize.

BTW the problem with the hysterical Muslim reponse to the Pope's speech wasn't that they though he agreed with a comment he quoted. The problem was that they rioted, burned down churches, and murdered a nun.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 25, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Mhr, have a look at the REAL Social Security problem:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tts2uTWt6e8

Milton Friedman is as wrong on Social Security, as he was on "monetarism" as the basis for policy. He has since admitted to the latter error, but he still cares to play politics.

On Social Security, the worker/retiree ratio dropped quickly after the early years, and has been almost steady since. In recent years, the solvency for Social Security has IMPROVED with each new trustee's report, --until President Bush came in and stacked the trustees board.

Bush's new prescription drug plan has approx. a $9 trillion shortfall over 75 years: two-and-a-half times the supposed shortfall for Social Security.

The current federal deficit is the real problem. See "The Bush Tax Cuts:"

http://youtube.com/watch?v=SA1f2MefsMM

Your children will still be paying-off this present debt! But why do you care! You are still paying off the Reagan debt.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on September 25, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, my mom (a liftime Republican and once a huge Bush supporter) is F**KING PISSED about this program.

Mine, too. Boy, did I get an earful.

Posted by: Mornington Crescent on September 25, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

given all the problems people seem to be finding with SS and medicare funds, I'm surprised how willingly the gop falls behind massive wartime funding, worsening chinese indebtedness, lack of pay-as-you-go, and tax cuts for paris hilton.

repealing bush corporate and personal tax handouts are anathema.

Posted by: Nads on September 25, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

There are any number of jokes about recipients of gifts developing a sense of entitlement. My favorite is credited to comedian Myron Cohen.

A Jewish grandmother is watching her grandchild playing on the beach when a huge wave comes and takes him out to sea. She pleads, "please God, save my only grandson. I beg of you, bring him back."

And a big wave comes and washes the boy back onto the beach, good as new.

She looks up to heaven and says: "He had a hat!"

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 25, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

As I've said before, I would have been willing to cut the budget for the Medicare prescription bill by a third if Republicans had just been willing to let serious policymakers craft a program that was wholly dedicated to getting prescription drugs into the hands of seniors as efficiently as possible.

I think you mean a program that would have reduced by a third the amount of money going to the people working to bring you the next generation of prescription drugs. Everybody knows you shouldn't "kill" the goose that lays the golden eggs, but there are always plenty of people who want to starve it.

Meanwhile, generic drugs are cheaper in the U.S. than in Canada. You could reduce the cost of this program by specifying that it only cover off-patent drugs. That still, for most people, provides much better care than what they could have gotten when Medicare/Medicaid were first created.

Posted by: republicrat on September 25, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

I like how FDR's progams have been running for 50 years yet we still have a poverty problem.

Our free market economy is structured to create millions of poverty wage jobs.

In other words, people work full time for the privilege of being poor.

So what is the answer?

Raising the minimum wage would be a good start. Republicans are punishing workers by not raising it.

Posted by: AkaDad on September 25, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Those who disabled are also on the Medicare Part D.
When someone hits the gap, they still have to pay the premiums for the drug insurance.
I won't have a problem with the gap, but every month, I email the insurance company about the one drug that they cover.
I'll find out if there any hoops to jump through when I get a reply to this month's email.
It is very hard to figure out this plan and I can read governmentese.
Maude

Posted by: Maude on September 25, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think you mean a program that would have reduced by a third the amount of money going to the people working to bring you the next generation of prescription drugs. Everybody knows you shouldn't "kill" the goose that lays the golden eggs, but there are always plenty of people who want to starve it.

$40.2 million a year in pay -- yeah, that's one starving goose....

Washington, D.C. - A new report by the consumer health organization Families USA refutes the pharmaceutical industry's claim that high and increasing drug prices are needed to sustain research and development. The report documents that drug companies are spending more than twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they do on research and development; that drug company profits, which are higher than all other industries, exceed research and development expenditures; and that drug companies provide lavish compensation packages for their top executives.

The report comes on the heels of a recent Families USA analysis that found prices rose more than twice the rate of inflation last year for the 50 most-prescribed drugs to seniors.

Among the nine pharmaceutical companies examined in the report - Merck, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pharmacia, Abbott Laboratories, American Home Products, Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, and Allergan - all but one (Eli Lilly) spent more than twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they did on research and development, and Lilly spent more than one and one-half times as much. Six out of the nine companies made more money in net profits than they spent on research and development last year. [see chart 1.]

The report also documents profligate spending on compensation packages for top pharmaceutical executives. The executive with the highest compensation package in the year 2000, exclusive of unexercised stock options, was William C. Steere, Jr., Pfizer's Chairman, who made $40.2 million. The executive with the highest amount of unexercised stock options was C.A. Heimbold, Jr., Bristol-Myers Squibb's Chairman and CEO, who held $227.9 million in unexercised stock options. [see charts 2 and 3.]

"Pharmaceutical companies charging skyrocketing drug prices like to sugar coat the pain by saying those prices are needed for research and development," said Ron Pollack, Families USA's executive director. "The truth is high prices are much more associated with record-breaking profits and enormous compensation for top drug company executives."

Pollack added, "Drug companies' commitments to research and development are dwarfed by those companies' expenditures for marketing, advertising, and administration."

In 2000, the pharmaceutical industry was, once again, the most profitable U.S. industry, and profit margins in the industry were nearly four times the average of Fortune 500 companies. According to the Families USA report, three companies - Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Abbott Laboratories - received twice as much in net profits than they spent on research and development. Three other companies - Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, and Allergan - received more money in net profits than they spent on research and development.

"The pharmaceutical industry's repetitious cry that research and development would be curtailed if drug prices are moderated is extraordinarily misleading," said Pollack. "If meaningful steps are taken to ameliorate fast-growing drug prices, it is corporate profits, expenditures on marketing, and high executive compensation that are more likely to be affected, not research and development."

The Families USA report is based exclusively on the annual reports submitted by the pharmaceutical companies to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since Families USA periodically reports about price changes for the 50 drugs most frequently prescribed for seniors, the report focused on the SEC filings for fiscal year 2000 of the nine pharmaceutical companies that market, or are the parent corporations of the companies that market, these 50 drugs. Mylan Laboratories, a much smaller company than the nine companies analyzed, could not be examined since it had not filed its annual proxy statement with the SEC at the time the report went to press.

This report is available on the Families USA website, www.familiesusa.org.

Posted by: Stefan on September 25, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK


kevin: Your Republican Congress at work.

gop: majority rules...but dont blame us..

Posted by: mr. irony on September 25, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, like i say, if you were a liberal, you were a dumb one. if you're a right-winger now, you remain dumb.

bush didn't come up with the medicare prescription drug benefit because he noticed a need and sought to fill it: he came up with it because gore was promising one, a real one. in typical bush fashion, he came up with a phony program in lieu of an actual solution.

there's nothing convenient here, this has nothing to do with the world of 1964, and unlike the modern republican party, the modern democratic party believe in balanced budgets, so it didn't introduce an expensive program at a time when the country couldn't afford it.

none of which you apparently have any handle on.

Posted by: howard on September 25, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

howard: bush didn't come up with the medicare prescription drug benefit because he noticed a need and sought to fill it: he came up with it because gore was promising one, a real one. in typical bush fashion, he came up with a phony program in lieu of an actual solution.

Evaluating someone else's motives is always conjectural. Howared may be right, for all I know.

But, consider this: Bush won the election. He had no obligation to enact Gore's campaign promises. Mostly he enacted his own promises, like tax cuts and No Child Left Behind.

Furthermore, adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare may have been a political loser. Conservatives dislike the plan on principle, while liberals complain that it's not generous enough and wrongly structured.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 25, 2006 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

If Paris Hilton's inheritance can't be taxed, what about a proposal to fine Halliburton ? It isn't as though there was not enough fraud to but the company several times over. I think the IRS should be let loose to confiscate ill-gotten gains. That goes for the rest of the Iraq gravy-train boys too. Audit !

Posted by: opit on September 25, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, you aren't being serious, are you? I'm not conjecturing about bush's motives, i'm telling you what people around bush made very clear in the year 2000 - they were not going to lose the election on account of a prescription drug bill gap. that was back in the compassionate conservative days.

as for conservatives hating this benefit: surely you jest. or maybe you agree with me that there are no real conservatives in the republican congress, only right-wingers interested in political power.

Because the bill only passed when the "conservatives" in the house held the voting open long enough to round up a few stray votes, including what appears to have been a clearcut bribe in order to get the vote.

are you this ill-informed about everything?

Posted by: howard on September 25, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Just wondering,ex-liberal, is there some reason why the grandmother was Jewish. God forbid she should be christian right? After all Christian grandmas would fall on the beach and pray to Jesus Christ and build a church to Jesus Christ right? Only a Jew would ask for something extra right? I guess the whole GOP is full of George "my mama has Spanish blood" Macacas.

Posted by: bluebell on September 25, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

On generic drugs: there are plenty of conditions for which NO generic drugs exist. At the same time, we can put some blame on Big Pharma for marketing more expensive new drugs when there are less expensive alternatives that work just as well. E.g. Nexium, "the new purple pill" got a huge push from its maker just as Prilosec, "the old purple pill" was coming off-patent and hence likely to drop significantly in price. And there is almost no difference between them.

Per the "donut hole," I read through some of the drug plan brochures at my local pharmacy, and NOT ONE mentioned the donut hole. I consider this to be deceptive marketing, and it's no wonder that seniors are getting pissed off.

Posted by: quietann on September 25, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK


ex-lib: Bush won the election.

and america lost...

we told you so...

Posted by: FATE on September 25, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

bluebell asks: Just wondering,ex-liberal, is there some reason why the grandmother was Jewish. God forbid she should be christian right? After all Christian grandmas would fall on the beach and pray to Jesus Christ and build a church to Jesus Christ right? Only a Jew would ask for something extra right? I guess the whole GOP is full of George "my mama has Spanish blood" Macacas.

Ask Myron Cohen. I simply pasted his joke. I am sure Myron Cohen is not a Christian anti-Semite.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 25, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, if anyone is going to take offense at Jewish jokes, let it be me. And I laughed my ass off. ex-liberal and I tangle like cats and dogs on the threads, but funny is funny. Lighten up.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 25, 2006 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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