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PHARMA: 60 Minutes on the MMA

60 Minutes on Sunday had an entertaining story about the Medicare drug bill’s passage in late 2003. Not exactly new news, but a fun retelling of how Tom Delay, and PhRMA rammed the bill through literally by holding the vote open for three hours and torturing the crap out of any Republican who was a fiscal conservative and likely to vote no.

What amazes me was that any Republicans at all felt squeamish about that. Hadn’t they seen how Delay operated? Hadn’t they met a PhRMA lobbyist in their time in DC? Hadn’t they noticed the Administration cow-towing to industry in every other sphere of government? Didn’t they know that every possible opposition group was bought off in the bill? Hadn’t they noticed the deficit going through the roof?

And what’s the relevance of telling the story again three and a half years later?

(CODA: Dan Burton, one of the Republicans interviewed, is actually somewhat interesting. For example he’s a long time drug war loon, but in 2002 he actually said some interesting things about the drug war almost hinting at the fact that he realizes what a waste of time and money it is. So maybe there is some hope…)

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  1. (input by Matthew at Terry’s request) My comment to CBS regarding the Part D hack job they did Sunday, which as you pointed out is three years old. BTW, no mystery why it ran. It is part of the PR campaign for price controls, the inevitable other shoe about to drop on pharma, once again proving that no good deed goes unpunished.
    “Your story on Medicare Part D is by far the most biased, partisan piece of garbage I have ever suffered through, and that says a lot considering the source.
    Taking a program that has give 95% of seniors drug coverage with which they are highly satisfied and make it sound like some sort of criminal conspiracy is a a moral and journalistic outrage.
    You have become entirely useful fools for the Democrats. As Andy Rooney might say, didya ever wonder why the Dems are so mad the Republicans passed Part D, a program that has helped millions and will reduce the cost of hospital and physician care? The answer is so simple a child could see it. It’s because the Democrats wanted to pass the benefit themselves! The Republicans had the audacity to outflank their social agenda. So what did the Democrats do? Revert to a scorched earth policy, trashing the benefit so the Republicans would get zero votes out of it, with the help of their media arm, CBS.
    To the extent that they have succeeded, they have ensured that the Republicans will be very reluctant to do any more good deeds, which is of course fine with the Democrats, but not so fine for the for underprivileged they purport to represent in a two-party system. Of course CBS evidently is no fan of that system.
    The fact is the benefit would never have been passed with ‘negotiation’, which is just code for price controls, because the industry would have stopped it with its vaunted lobby. So using private sector negotiations has given seniors years of benefit they never would have had otherwise. many frail seniors couldn’t wait any longer and are alive today as a result of passage. Plus the program minimized the moral hazard cost of the program by providing employers incentives to maintain retiree coverage, saving billions of taxpayer dollars. In fact the program is UNDER budget, a hugely significant fact you withheld from the public. fact you And ask VA covered seniors who switched to Part D in droves how much they like the VA system? They don’t because it has a very restricted formulary, unlike part D, which restricts choice of those who served out nation. The VA drug benefit is the Rx equivalent of Walter Reed, another huge distortion in your stupendously biased and partisan report.
    You portray Part D as a bonanza for drug companies. If so, why are drug stocks down so much? The fact is the program has been marginal in its impact on pharmaceutical bottom lines and will end up being a disaster for the industry once the Democrats renege on the federal bargain that got the program passed and impose those price controls you think are so great. Then we’ll all be losers, as the companies stop R&D that would have discovered cures for cancer and other diseases that have plagued mankind for millennia.
    But this is all truth, which you and your sponsors at the DNC have little use for.
    If you so deplore the industry, stop taking their commercial dollars. If you don’t, you will reveal yourselves to the world as the miserable, despicable hypocrites you are.”
    This is the truth, which though ignored by most, will out.

  2. The 3.5 year delay stemmed from timing on the following;
    1. The presidential election.
    2. Release of The Center For Public Integrity report on the Pharmaceutical Industry spend on lobbying.
    3. A year of pain for seniors experiencing a doughnut hole in part D that bites back.
    4. The spin meister that spoonfed the story to 60 minutes waited to maximize the impact based on the rage that will call for further reforms.

  3. Don’t expect that the Democrats are any better. The Dems want their campaign funds, and big Pharma will pay them off. They will do nothing to negotiate pricing, nor will they allow true competition in the Rx market by allowing the reimportation of medicines from abroad. America is stupid to be the only country in the world that does not negotiate Rx pricing. In addition to the excessive advertisements(every 7 minutes on TV), the lack of reasonable prescription prices is a major cause of the increased cost of health care.

  4. The 60 Minutes show was a good watch, but a depressing one. If anyone didn’t believe this system runs on bribery before the piece would be hard pressed to think the same after seeing the show. I’m don’t know how bad it will have to get before change, but apparently a lot more bad. We’re now into a phase where no one is shamed by their behavior.
    Only difference between our political system and the corrupt ones in Africa or South America; ours operates with white men in suits.

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