April 10, 2006


(Photo: Frustrations over the Part D drug plan have led to an epidemic of assaults on toy monkeys nationwide by ordinarily peaceful creatures.)

The last few years have provided some interesting lessons in government and public policy. The inept response to Hurricane Katrina showed what happens when government is controlled by people who don't believe that government can competently do anything. The Part D prescription drug mess shows what happens when you let industry lobbyists write laws.

There are three main aspects to this week's goat rope. The first, Operation Confuse Senior Citizens, the baffling process potential beneficiaries have to go through to apply for this program, is already well known.

The second is the "donut hole," a gap in the plan that provides no coverage for costs between $2,250 and $5,000.

The third, less well known, is the enormous cost of this program to citizens, beneficiaries and taxpayers due to waste, inefficiency, and excessive profits for insurance and drug companies. The problem is not that Part D is a wasteful government program. Rather, it is another case of privatization run rampant or socialism for the rich.

Unlike the traditional Medicare program, Part D is administered through a host of private plans. The law actually forbids the government from using its clout to negotiate fair prices from drug companies. According to the Institute for America's Future, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the marketing and profits of the insurance industry would add $38 billion to the cost of the program over the first eight years of the program. That's a lot of money, but it's nothing compared to excess drug costs.

"Virtually every other country in the industrialized world imposes some constraint on drug prices, either through formal price controls or government negotiated prices. As a result, people in other countries pay much lower prices than do people in the United States," says a report by the Institute (see link below).

Not taking this obvious step will cost billions of dollars. "If Medicare was allowed to use its bargaining power to negotiate prices on behalf of beneficiaries, it could almost certainly obtain discounts that are at least as large as the highest discounts obtained in other countries, since it would be by far the largest drug purchaser in the world. If Medicare could negotiate the same schedule of prices as Australia (the current lowest cost country), the savings over the first eight years of the drug benefit would be almost $560 billion nationally and $4.7 billion in West Virginia." (see:http://ourfuture.org/issues_and_campaigns/medicare/partd_reports.cfm)

The solution would be to have Part D administered directly by Medicare rather than private plans and to require Medicare to negotiate lower prices from the industry. This would also eliminate vast confusion and save more than enough money to close the gaps in coverage.



Khazouh Baszhees said...

When in doubt, CHOMP THE INVISIBLE MONKEY! And Part D like there's no tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Congressman Mollohan knows where the hole in the donut is. Perhaps it's in all the projects he's "earmarked" over the years, sitting around in fancy, unoccupied buildings -- oh, excuse me, "non-profit scientific research centers" -- in the middle of pastures. How strongly Democratic is the First Congressional District of West Virginia? Isn't there ANYONE who could run against Mollohan in the primary and take him down there? Look what happened as a result of the combo of the Tom Delay scandal and a really good Democrat running in Texas! Delay RESIGNED! Apparently, according to the New York Times article that sent me on this rampage, a Cheney-picked Republican is running against Mollohan, and boy, does Mollohan look vulnerable to ME! But hey, I'm not from West Virginia, so I don't know how much corruption you all can stand. There must be an honest Democrat in the First Congressional District of West Virginia who wouldn't care whether or not it was "political suicide" to run against an entrenched/dynastic incumbent. Just let MoveOn wrap their arms around him/her... or would you prefer to just celebrate the raising of the West Virginia Minimum Wage which, admittedly, very few West Virginians will actually benefit from, as it currently stands? Come ON!!! West Virginia 1st Congressional District DEMOCRATS are the invisible monkey I'd like to chomp!