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NEW DRUG BILL
SMELLS MORE LIKE OUTHOUSE EVERY DAY

by Frank Kaiser
Experts agree that indoor plumbing is the most effective life extender.

Let's say your home needs a toilet. Your outhouse is unhealthy, cold and often difficult to reach in winter, and so vile in the heat of the summer that it's actually shortening your life.

You're a senior, and for each of the past eight years the government has promised you an indoor toilet. Finally, Congress seriously debates a bill that will give you a toilet, your ticket to a far healthier life.

  • Except, for some inexplicable reason, you'll have to wait another three years, until 2006.

  • Once installed, your new toilet will be off limits from time to time. You'll still have to trek to the outhouse in January and February, and then again throughout the hot and perilous summer months.

  • Then there's the question of cost. Both the House and Senate make it illegal for you to get bids from toilet contractors. Taxpayers must pay whatever the contractor wants, no matter how exorbitant the price.

  • Then, to top it off, the House bill demands that your home be torn down in a few years, leaving you out in the cold, dependent on the kindness and generosity of the healthcare industry for survival.

And while Congress pushes for all this in your name, your "free-all-the-world-markets-for-universal-prosperity" President's FDA and Justice Department threaten to arrest anyone buying the same toilet in Canada where it's often 30 to 80 percent cheaper.

That, in a toilet, sums up where Congress stands these days with your so-called Medicare drug benefit. (For all the convoluted details, see http://www.suddenlysenior.com/drugbenefitstinks.html.)

Millions Who Now Get Drug Benefits Are Cut Off

Now add this to the insanity: According to the Heritage Foundation, more than four million retirees who currently receive employee drug benefits will be cut off under a Medicare drug plan, thrown into a jerrybuilt system far less adequate and more likely to undermine their good health.

Under the new bill, benefits will vary widely from region to region. The Wall Street Journal says that private plans will receive the lion's share of government support, one of several tactical maneuvers designed to maim and murder the current Medicare system within a decade.

Over the last five years Congress has already cut Medicare by $260 billion. Today's inadequate compensation is forcing doctors across the country to limit or stop treating Medicare patients altogether.

    Suddenly Trivia: According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services, Medicare HMOs spend an average of 15 percent (as high as 32 percent) on overhead while Medicare spends: a) 2 percent; b) 7 percent; c) 12 percent; d) 17.3 percent.

My Congressman, Republican Mike Bilirakis, happens to be the chairman of the subcommittee that actually wrote the new House Medicare bill.

Mike lives just up the road from me.

To their credit, AARP last month arranged a meeting to put Mike together with some of his senior constituents here. They even left it to the Congressman to choose the time and day.

Mike was a no-show. The 250 seniors who came with questions were not amused. Many were from points much farther than the 1.6 miles between the Congressman's office and the senior center.

Of course, Mike never apologized. To be in Congress today is to never have to say you're sorry. Such arrogance is inevitable in a system where money overshadows people.

Congress, already bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical companies, doesn't care what their constituents want. Apparently, our representatives think we're all fools.

At least Mike does.

Economics 101, Congressional-Style

When asked why Congress doesn't adapt the successful drug program based on competitive bids and negotiated prices run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mike cried, "That's not America!" calling the VA's program a form of "price control."

Well, yes. Maybe Mike hasn't heard, but that's how we do business here in America. We bid. We negotiate.

Except in Congress. The current bill in both houses insists that Medicare cannot seek volume discounts or "interfere in any way" with today's skyrocketing drug prices.

Amazing, isn't it, what $96,742 in legal bribes to Mike has bought. It's all part of the $26 million the pharmaceutical industry paid Congress in 2002 to assure that Medicare couldn't save money on drugs.

Just buying the medicine in Canada might cut the $400 billion drug bill in half. Maybe more. But, of course, that's illegal. PhRMA's millions to the current President's election campaigns have assured that.

Hey, it's only our money, our lives they're screwing with. Congress doesn't have to live with this program. These tooth fairies for the pharmaceutical industry have the best healthcare system money can buy.

And they ought to be ashamed.

I'd like to take my Congressman Mike and put him in that outhouse of mine. Then you know what I'd do? I take the biggest rock I could find and drop it down the second hole.

Maybe then, he'd understand what stinks so much around here.

    Suddenly Trivia answer: a) With no marketing costs, markups, etc., the "bureaurcRATS" at Medicare spend less than 2 cents out of every dollar on overhead.

Copyright © 2003 – Frank Kaiser


See "Drug bill benefits termed 'very poor' Two federal plans being weighed would raise costs for many on Medicare, a report by activists says." From the DesMoines Register.


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