Friday, November 24, 2006

OK, NOW THAT THE DEMOCRATS CONTROL CONGRESS, WILL HEALTH CARE COSTS GO DOWN? CAN THEY UNJIGGER THE SYSTEM? DO THEY WANT TO?

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If you've been following DWT for the last few months, you know I spent an awful lot of time talking with men and women running for Congress. One question I always asked was simple and straightforward. I wanted to know what their constituents were bringing up to them, not necessarily what they were bringing up to their constituents. And almost every single person I spoke to talked about some aspect of the prohibitive cost of health care. Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) said something which I still haven't been able to get out of my head. It was about the sheer hatefulness of the entire system.

And the system couldn't be more hateful if it were specifically designed by Kafka to be hateful. Estimates go as high as 40% of each health care dollar spent going to wasteful and needless bureaucracy and the creation of profits centers around those functions which actually impede the efficient delivery of health care. The system wasn't designed by Kafka. Nor was it even designed by Congress per se. It was designed by the very people who stood the most to gain, profit-wise, by structuring it the way it is now. In other words, the HMOs and pharmaceutical companies bribed our elected legislators with tens of millions of dollars, and our legislators abdicated to them the right to design and structure a system that would screw consumers and doctors.

So now that the Democrats have won majorities in both houses, that will all change, right? Well . . . not so fast. It may change a bit; it may even change quite a bit. But I've been writing quite a lot lately about the similarities between the two Inside-the-Beltway-based corporately -financed parties and how different they are from the grassroots, outside-the-Beltway people in whose name they govern. Today David Sirota tackles the implications of this in relation to health care in an article called "The Money Party vs. The People Party."

It's kind of depressing, especially if you believe in the Democratic Party and just spent a couple months doing what you could to make sure Democrats came to power. Because instead of the progressive values and principles we were fighting for, we have crass, craven, highly corrupt political hacks like Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer in power. The Associated Press has a story by Andrew Bridges out today about drug reimportation and how a Democratic Congress will deal with that. "Efforts to allow Americans access to cheaper prescription drugs from abroad should blossom once Democrats assume control in Congress, but it won't be a top priority, lawmakers and health care experts said. Members of the House and Senate are gearing up for a renewed push to change federal law and permit broader imports of prescription drugs from Canada and elsewhere, where certain medicines can cost less than two-thirds what they do in the United States. Their hope is the imports will drive down prices at home."

Sirota points out, however, that the pharmaceutical industry has other ideas. An aside here. Toward the end of my recent interview with Steny Hoyer I got carried away with a ritual--albeit toned-down--denunciation of Hoyer's patron, Rahm Emanuel. Hoyer said there is no one (he said "no one") who fights harder against the pharmaceutical lobby. Let's keep an eye on that; in fact, both eyes.

Back to Sirota. He points out that there are Republicans like Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) willing to stand up to Big Pharma, and there are Democrats like Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) who have been bought off by them and will parrot their lies and talking points to scuttle serious reform.

It isn't black and white. He points to a story in today's New York Times by Robert Pear that shows a dynamic of what Sirota calls "the Money Party vs. the People Party" battling it out over reform. Again, it's not 100% Democrats good, Republicans bad. Well, it's almost always Republicans bad, but there are plenty of bad Democrats as well. The Times, in fact, has some interesting examples:

"Billy Tauzin, president of [PhRMA], a lobbying organization for brand-name drug companies, recently urged Rep. Edolphus Towns, [extremely corrupt] Democrat of New York, to seek a position as chairman of a powerful House subcommittee, said Karen Johnson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Towns. The subcommittee has authority over Medicare and the Food and Drug Administration. Democrats have yet to decide who will head the subcommittee. . . . Amgen, the biotechnology company, recently disclosed that it had retained as a lobbyist, George C. Crawford, a former chief of staff for Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. . . . Amgen is also seeking strategic advice from the Glover Park Group, a consulting firm whose founders include Joe Lockhart, a former press secretary for President Bill Clinton. . . . Other major drug companies have been snatching up Democratic former-aides-turned-lobbyists. Merck recently has hired Peter Rubin, a former aide to Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, one of the more liberal House Democrats. Cephalon has hired Kim Zimmerman, a health policy aide to Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat of Nebraska. . . . The Biotechnology Industry Organization has retained Paul T. Kim, a former aide to two influential Democrats, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California."

If you're wondering why, you haven't been paying attention to how Congress has been working to screw over consumers and workers in the last 12 years. In that time it's all been the Republicans--with a dose of some reactionary, corrupt Democrats. Now the ball is in the Democrats' court. Let's see what they do with it. As Sirota said in his closing today, "This is the real divide that matters in politics--not Republicans and Democrats, but Money vs. People. Don't let the pundits' calls for nebulous 'bipartisanship' fool you. Don't let the pledges of 'civility' from politicians divert your attention. There is too much bipartisanship in pursuit of selling out, and too much civility that hides a very uncivil class war that Congress has waged--and may continue to wage--on middle America."
 

4 Comments:

At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The climate might be ripe for Michael Moore's film on healthcare.

And, with the GOP on the wane, it might be safe to come out of hiding for him.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger TeddySanFran said...

40% is an understatement. My personal interactions with health care delivery -- they are extensive -- makes me sure that the entire system generates more waste and profit than health care.

 
At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Healthcare, as someone who has spent years working in the field, I can tell you that it is way too top-heavey and that is not likely to change. You have medicare/caid reimbursment rates that do not even match the actual cost of the services, let alone provide for any profit, you care being provided by people who are underpaid, over worked and tired of hearing that there just isn't enough money for the floor to be properly staffed. Meanwhile, you have politicians claiming they are going to "get tough" on nursing homes, the results of which will be more paperwork, more managment, and even less time to actually care for a resident. I guerentee that the system has to change, or the people who run it will revolt, hopefully enmasse.

 
At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Investors watch Eli Lilly shares drop $2.80 post election.

My issue is Zyprexa which is only FDA approved for schizophrenia (.5-1% of pop) and some bipolar (2% pop) and then an even smaller percentage of theses two groups.

So how does Zyprexa get to be the 7th largest drug sale in the world?

Eli Lilly is in deep trouble for using their drug reps to 'encourage' doctors to write zyprexa for non-FDA approved 'off label' uses.

The drug causes increased diabetes risk,and medicare picks up all the expensive fallout.There are now 7 states (and counting) going after Lilly for fraud and restitution.---

Daniel Haszard

 

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