Sunday, August 9, 2009

Amnesia and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

As a spectator sport it is always fun to watch folks jump through intellectual hoops to rationalize a sell-out as part of the normal course of politics (though honesty forces me to admit that the blogger with the testicular fixation has come right out and named names, goring the guilty and admitting he was had)...

... it is less amusing to realize that many of President Obama's fervent supporters are now OK with exactly the things they (and he) criticized about President Bush, Congressional GOPers and the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.

To wit; from American Progress:

The new Medicare legislation stripped out provisions both to allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices and for Americans to reimport FDA-approved medication from Canada, where it sells much more cheaply....

instead of standing up to pharmaceutical companies and allowing Medicare to negotiate to drive down inflated prices, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), in continuing to do the drug industry's bidding, is advocating raising prices in other countries – instead of lowering them at home.

This was echoed in our local blogosphere just six months back when one of our friends boasted of writing a letter to the editor that said, among other things, that Congressman Mike Castle does not deserve re-election because he supported

Medicare Part D, which made sure that the government would not be able to negotiate preferred pricing of prescriptions paid for by taxpayers.

Supporting a Medicare reform that did not allow for such negotiations was considered part of Mike Castle's betryal of Delaware.

Now, when President Obama signs off on the same sweet-heart deal [as we shall see below] the very same blogger is not using words like betrayal anymore:

Health care companies came to the table to support something (we don’t know exactly what yet) to get some certainty out of the deal. And whatever else they could get too, but there is no doubt that if you are running a company you want to see whatever regulatory regime you have to live with be a stable one. I don’t much like the deal that Obama made with Big Pharma, but I get why they did it. And a big reason has to do with Pharma providing givebacks or subsidies of some type that won’t come from taxpayers.

I guess you could argue--if you are really nimble--that betrayal and I don't much like the deal ... but I get why they did it are synonymous.

Now let's take a quick look at the evolution of Barack Obama's position:

From candidate Barack Obama's campaign position:

Obama: Pharmaceutical companies are selling the exact same drugs in Europe and Canada but charging Americans more than double the price. Obama will allow Americans to buy cheaper medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe. Obama will also repeal the ban that prevents the government from negotiating with drug companies for the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which could result in savings as high as $30 billion. Finally, Obama will work to increase the use of generic drugs in federal benefits programs and prohibit drug companies from keeping generics out of markets.

And, just to be clear, he reiterated this position while debating Senator John McCain; CBS News:

Obama, on the other hand, wants to authorize Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to bring down drug prices - like the Veterans Administration does.

And, according to the NYT, what President Obama has agreed to sign away in exchange for millions in pro-reform advertising revenue:

Mr. Tauzin said the White House had tracked the negotiations throughout, assenting to decisions to move away from ideas like the government negotiation of prices or the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada.

Other charges hurled with great accuracy at the Bush administration included the fact that his position on no negotiation and non-importation resulted directly from what we might call enlightened self-interest. Again, American Progress from back in the day:

The White House yesterday categorically refused to answer questions about why President Bush's longtime business associate was allowed to "craft" key portions of the Medicare bill which could send millions to his own company. The Boston Globe reports a Texas company owned by David Halbert "a campaign contributor and former business associate of President Bush" could profit from portions of the Medicare bill. The Globe notes the story was first reported in yesterday's Progress Report and points out that Halbert specifically helped "craft the portion of the Medicare bill that allows seniors to buy discount drug cards."

We have seen plenty of outrage over the members of our current Congress taking campaign contributions from HMOs, Big Pharma, etc., but next to nothing on President Obama's own financial interests, based on the campaign contributions he received in 2008:

For example:

From Health Services/HMOs:

Barack Obama (D) $1,262,224

From Health Professionals:

Barack Obama (D) $11,532,962

And from the Pharmaceutical Industry:

Barack Obama (D): $2,124,560

[All data from Open Secrets; just change the tabs]

That would be nearly $15 million in campaign contributions from health care special interests.

And folks wonder why the former Illinois State Senator who never changed his mind about his position on the Iraq War has done a complete about-face on his 2003 advocacy for single-payer health insurance. [Listen at the 1:04 mark in the video.]

Doesn't seem like such a great mystery to me.

Which is why Libertarians keep having this difficulty with people who insist that the two wings of the Demopublican Party are actually separate entities.


Hube said...

Steve. How dare you keep tabs on all the hypocrisy! That's unfair.

Nancy Willing said...

This captures what I was going to write about insofar as the portion of DL 'defenders'of this abysmal corner the White House is turning. LG and Cass as apologists?

They do this same thing for the creepy county executive Coons who they like to stay close to. Coons even posted one of Cassandra's posts on his facebook pages. The post where she 'documents' how eager the countians on his talking tour were for new tax increases.

Yeah. Sure. Proganda central.

Cassandra has recently said that she drew up some proposals for stimulus money for her employer. Since she is a project manager for an environmental engineering firm, one can guess that there are conflicts as a blogger that she should probably be held to disclosing.

LG has recently indicated that he is one of the better salaried among us. Perhaps that puts him in a class where paying taxes is no sweat and the health care bennies are already dandy through his job.

I just wonder what is behind some of the lack of inquiry and abundance of defensive maneuvering a few of the DL people are doing. I may be far off on these suppositions. I may not be not so far off.

I got on the radio to congratulate Al Mascitti for going after Obama's corporate whoring. I am now calling him by what his actions prove him to be at war, at Treasury and now at health care: BushcObama.

FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher (a recent cancer survivor) has figured how much big pharma is 'saving' for themselves over the next ten years over this deal - 220 billion.

Mike W. said...

I'm hardly surprised, President Obama's just doing exactly what Candidate Obama did all throughout his campaign. That is, allowing his positions to evolve based on political expediency.

It's really disheartening to see the same old shit going on regardless of who's in office. I was never an Obama fan, but even I was hopeful that he'd make amends for some of Bush's abuses of power.

Bowly said...

Freedom's just another word for forcing people to provide health care.

tom said...

or (quoting that song once again)...

we're all going to be free pretty soon.

'cause freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose