December 5, 2003

Commentary:

Eastern Group Publications
Los Angeles

The Medicare Sham: Pharmaceutical Industry the Real Winner

It’s difficult to really point a finger at exactly what the new Medicare legislation will cost Americans in the long run.

Seniors who have incomes of less than $14,505 will get some benefits in the year 2006, and those whose income is below the poverty line of $9,760, will also get some benefit.

But the real winners are the pharmaceutical companies that will reap the greatest benefit of all. They will continue to be able to gouge Americans who have no choice but to pay exorbitant prices for medication they need. And they’ll do it with the cooperation and support of our legislators in Washington, and the President.

Americans will also continue to subsidize the cost of medications for other countries, such as Canada, whose governments are wise enough to negotiate to lower the cost of medicinal drugs for their citizens.

The problem with those in the U.S. Senate and Congress who voted to approve the new Medicare legislation is that they fell for a shell game that pharmaceutical and insurance companies have been playing on Americans for years.

American seniors already have Medicare + choice options. But the HMO’s have been notorious for getting out of Senior HMO’s in many areas of the country, dropping seniors whenever conditions suited them. Does anyone recall the vast number of seniors who suddenly found themselves without insurance when they needed it most, because their HMO had decided they no longer wanted to cover seniors? What makes our Washington legislators believe they’ve changed?

Then there are the implied threats of pharmaceutical companies that unless they are allowed to continue gouging Americans through excessive drug prices, they won’t continue to invest in research for new drugs. Does anyone really think that these companies can continue to exist if they don’t continue to market new and better drugs when their patents on their older drugs expire?

In any case, most of their drug research is subsidized by the taxpayer — through our universities, health, and charitable institutes.

One final thought, who ever heard of a government entitlement program costing less than expected? We the taxpayers will very probably wind up paying a lot more than the $40 billion the program is expected to cost, saddling our children with a future tax cost and debt, even though many seniors will probably not be around in 2006 to get any benefit from this so-called benefit.

As for Californians, we wonder if U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstien who voted for this sham, will continue to be the state’s most popular Democrat when Californians finally realize they have been sold a bill of no good goods.

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