Saturday, June 20, 2009

Well, Whoopty-Damn-Doo!

The magnanimity of PHARMA is truly a wonder to behold. A Washington Post article reports that the drug companies are promising to toss in some drug cost savings on a voluntary basis to Medicare recipients. Why the sudden burst of concern? Perhaps the news that even more generosity was going to imposed by a House bill under consideration.

Drug manufacturers have tentatively agreed to provide as much as $80 billion worth of discounts on medicines purchased for government programs such as Medicare, providing a bit of cash for President Obama's expensive and ambitious attempt to give health coverage to every American.

The accord, approved yesterday by the board of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), is a voluntary pledge by the industry to reduce what it charges the federal government over the next 10 years, according to a source close to the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of White House sensitivity about the talks. ...

If health-reform legislation is enacted, the agreement would bring financial relief to about 3.4 million elderly and disabled Americans who currently fall into a coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole." Medicare recipients must now pay the full price of brand-name medications after they have incurred a total of $2,200 in drug expenses, until reaching an outer limit of $5,100.

Under the proposal, U.S. drug companies would provide half-price discounts to Medicare recipients in the "doughnut hole" and provide other unspecified discounts and rebates for a total of $80 billion in savings to the government. ...

Drugmakers face deep skepticism among Democratic leaders, particularly in the House, where officials yesterday unveiled a draft bill that would mandate some of the same changes the industry said it hopes to accomplish voluntarily.

The House bill aims to provide insurance to virtually every American by asking employers and taxpayers to cover those who cannot afford it themselves. It would impose tight restrictions on insurers and create a nonprofit insurance program run by the government.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) singled out drug manufacturers, saying the legislation attempts to recoup the "windfall" that companies received when Congress created the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which took effect in 2006.

After nearly two and a half years, the Medicare Part D boondoggle, which not only created the doughnut hole but also prohibited the federal government from negotiating lower prices with drug makers for the plan, is finally being addressed and the drug companies know there just might be a harsh reckoning. Eighty billion over ten years is peanuts to what the companies have made and will make if the plan isn't revised, and PHARMA knows it. This is just a preemptive strike, being made in the hopes that the voluntary "promise" will stave off real reform.

Rep. Waxman knows this, and the rest of Congress should. The 109th Congress, bought and paid for by such interests as drug companies, diluted what wasn't a bad idea (prescription drug benefits as part of Medicare coverage) so that their campaign funds would stay healthy. The question is whether the 111th Congress will show any better grasp on what real health care reform requires and what the rest of us deserve.

I guess we'll get our answer when the provision the House is considering comes up for a vote. Of course, it wouldn't hurt if we let our congress critters know just what we think of this latest ploy by the drug industry to curtail real reform.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Anybody wanna bet Medicare Part D, and the give-away to big PhRma have enough defenders in Congress to protect them?

Medicare part D could be repealed with a single directive. Obama? Not Present.

The drug co give-away organized and led by (former Cong.) Billy Tauzin is safe as houses. It would need passage of a bill, through both houses, to put an end to that.

May I say, in full confidence: NAGAHAPUN.

5:57 AM  

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