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                                       politics + culture

Saturday, January 21, 2006

the medicare drug disaster: enough is enough

This article from the NYT made my blood boil. If you're anything like me, it'll do that to you, too.

On the seventh day of the new Medicare drug benefit, Stephen Starnes began hearing voices again, ominous voices, and he started to beg for the medications he had been taking for 10 years. But his pharmacy could not get approval from his Medicare drug plan, so Mr. Starnes was admitted to a hospital here for treatment of paranoid schizophrenia.

Mr. Starnes, 49, lives in Dayspring Village, a former motel that is licensed by the State of Florida as an assisted living center for people with mental illness. [snip]

Mix-ups in the first weeks of the Medicare drug benefit have vexed many beneficiaries and pharmacists. Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said the transition from Medicaid to Medicare had had a particularly severe impact on low-income patients with serious, persistent mental illnesses.

Robert Pear's excellent "Medicare Woes Take High Toll on Mentally Ill" points out that 25 states have instituted emergency state-wide measures to deal with situations like Stephen's. Florida, where Steven and millions of other vulnerable patients live, is not one of them.

How many times have you read a story like this one in the last week?

Sponsors of the 2003 Medicare law wanted to drive down costs by creating a competitive market for drug insurance. They focused on older Americans, not the disabled. They assumed that beneficiaries would sort through various drug plans to find the one that best met their needs. But that assumption appears unrealistic...

No kidding. Until January 1st, 2006, these disabled citizens had no co-payments for their drugs, essential medication that it is to everyone's benefit that they have access to. After that date, when a private company took over their drug plan on behalf of Medicare, these patients learned...at the time of trying to get their medication...that they now had co-payments of $3 for each medication. (Some of them take 8 or 9) The article notes, these patients receive a "cash allowance" of $54 a month.

Imagine that was you. Imagine that was a loved one. Is this compassion?

  • Can't read the new plan and sort it out for yourself? Tough.
  • Standing five feet away from the medication that keeps you alive, or sane, but don't have the means or the proper authorization? Tough.
  • Your dad's in Florida and doesn't like taking his medicine in the first place? Tough.

  • To be real, the roll out of any government program will have difficulties, but it takes the GOP to take run-of-the-mill organizational mix ups and turn them into a showcase for the real bottom line of their political and moral philosophy: money.

    Think about it. The problems that we're hearing about with the medicare drug plan are all coming about because the very same pharmacies and drug companies that sponsered these bills and benefit from them are denying their customers essential drugs. People aren't getting their drugs at the pharmacy...they are standing there, in need of medication, and being turned away because of MONEY. They weakest and most vulnerable, just like in Katrina, are being screwed simply because...they are weak and vulnerable.

    That is the real meaning of the ownership society. Old and poor people may have to suffer some discomfort and go without or even need urgent care...but...god forbid that a rich company not make a dollar!

    Word to America: if you want your institutions to work for the people, support a political party that actually believes in institutions and people.

    My bottom line, it's hard to take anyone who talks about "ownership" seriously if they can't even "own" their own mistakes. The medicare drug distaster is a huge one.

    If this is conservative values in action, there's not much more we can take.


    • Yeah, you would think enough is enough. Da "Donut Hole" could be enough...to swallow the Rethuglican dreams of power.

      After all if Florida goes Blue we can all say:

      "Jebi Fuck You!" same to the Stealth Slime McCain.

      joke, right?

      By Blogger A. Citizen, at 5:33 PM  

    • They weakest and most vulnerable, just like in Katrina, are being screwed simply because...they are weak and vulnerable.

      The weak and the vulnerable are screwed by almost every aspect of our healthcare "system". For example, I was shocked when I realized how completely alone diabetics are. Every piece of literature on the topic says that Diabetics must be the managers of a team consisting of themselves, their doctors (primary care & specialists) and nurse educators. And they instantly have to learn the complicated relationship between what they eat and their blood sugar levels.

      I kind of threw myself into the project. But the more I learned and the more overwhelmed I got and the more I struggled with the relentlessness of it -- Well the more I wondered just how many diabetics could actually stick to this routine.

      And what people who don't have the advantage of education and a job in a library that I do? Can they go from being barely literate (or not literate at all) to managing their team of diabetic professionals? And managing their own day-to-day care?

      And now, they can't get the medications they need (because a diabetic will eventually need medication) because a system that wasn't designed for people like them in the first place, just got worse.

      I don't know how we live with ourselves. I really don't.

      By Blogger katiebird, at 7:15 PM  

    • The "ownership society" is actually supposed to be capitalized: "The Ownership Society" whose posh headquarters rotate among the luxurious estates of multi-millionaires and billionaires.

      The general public assumed it was lowercase, and applied to society as a whole - alas, it was a common(er's) mistake...

      By Blogger rhetoretician, at 9:56 PM  

    • rhetoretician --

      "Commoner's mistake." Too true. The phrasing always takes me back to one of the last episodes of Larry King I ever watched (on purpose). He slips up for a second there and says what he really thinks:

      Larry King: People outside the Senate -- lot of common people, everyday people, might think, 'boy if you are a conservative and the other guy is a liberal you don't get along.' sort-of a link

      Kid -- Another splendid post. The article, as promised, made my blood boil. The whole "compassion agenda" usually makes my blood boil. Like the Moral Majority before him, this "compassionate conservative" is neither.

      By Blogger &y, at 8:23 AM  

    • i'm convinced that this botch job is an intentional sandbagging to sour the american people on any government-run healthcare. intentional and unforgivable ineptitude.

      By Anonymous wu ming, at 11:08 AM  

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