Right now millions of seniors are overwhelmed as they wade through a flood of information to figure out the prescription drug benefit that was approved by the Republican-led Congress in 2003. In a recent poll almost two thirds say they do not understand the drug benefit, which forces them to choose between up to 40 different plans that provide very different coverage. Why did Congress make this process so confusing? And why did the bill, among other things:
- Make seniors responsible for 100% of their prescription drug costs between $2,251 and $5,100,
- Put private companies in charge of administering the program,
- Forbid the federal government from negotiating for much lower prices with drug makers, and
- Prevent the importation of much cheaper drugs from Canada?
If you answered "to make U.S. drug makers and insurance companies richer," you would be correct.
In 2003 alone, corporate special interests, including HMOs and pharmaceutical companies, dished out $141 million for a veritable army of 952 lobbyists – close to twice as many lobbyists as there are members of Congress – to make sure that the bill was written for the benefit of large insurance and drug companies, as opposed to the health needs of American citizens. Worse still, nearly half of these lobbyists were former employees of the federal government, including 30 former members of Congress, and at least 11 top staffers who left the Bush administration to lobby for the drug industry and HMOs in 2003.
And even worse than that, many of the government officials who worked to get the legislation approved by Congress then went on to jobs in the very companies that will profit from the legislation. Some, such as Tom Scully, administrator of the Medicare program, were actually negotiating future employment with companies that stood to benefit handsomely from the drug law, at the same time they were promoting the legislation. Another six top congressional staffers at the center of negotiations over the Medicare bill now lobby for drug companies or HMOs. And would it surprise you to know that 21 executives and lobbyists from HMOs and the drug industry served as major fundraisers for Bush’s presidential campaigns, collecting at least $100,000 ("Pioneers") or $200,000 ("Rangers") for the 2000 or 2004 campaigns?
Influence peddling and blatant "revolving door" conflicts of interest such as these are the reasons that you got a lousy Medicare prescription drug law, and why big insurance and drug companies are getting rich at your expense. This shows you why fighting corruption matters, and why ending or reforming practices such as these are critical to your interests as an American citizen.
The information above comes from the Public Citizen report "The Medicare Drug War"