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Drugging Medicare
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Press Release

Drugging Medicare

The new political reality is that, very soon, taxpayers are going to start paying for medical drugs for senior citizens. The idea of a drug benefit has a full steam of head in Washington, D.C., after passing the House of Representatives last Congress. That bill was a disaster, and in one stroke would have increased the federal government’s unfunded obligations by a staggering $4 trillion or so. Thankfully, that plan died in the Senate, but the idea has arrived. OK, first of all, on one level including drugs in our health care program for seniors makes sense. Drugs are an increasingly important part of medical care, and funding drug treatment will have some immediate benefit to the health care bottom line. In fact, a study by Columbia University economist Frank Lichtenberg found that every $1 spent on newer drugs saved $4 in hospital care. The reason: because prescription drugs are more often used for preventive care, they stave off more debilitating, more costly medical conditions requiring expensive and lengthy hospitalization. While a $600 annual prescription for two leading cholesterol-reducing drugs may seem expensive, it is the long-term effect of those drugs that helps avert an emergency bypass operation and lengthy hospital stay at an average cost of $300,000, according to the study. The pharmaceutical companies are, indeed, leading a health care revolution. For example, the Washington Post reports today on Virginia Garner, a teacher in Claremont, California, who takes the new drug Gleevec to stave off her leukemia. “Today, Garner's life has been returned to her. She is back in her classroom and spending time enjoying her husband and two dogs. The only reminder of her cancer is the six yellow capsules she swallows every morning with a bowl of cereal or a piece of toast. ‘I feel great. I don't even remember I'm sick," said Garner. ‘I think of it as under control. It's sort of like diabetes. The insulin keeps the diabetes under control. It's like that. It's turned into a disease you can manage. It's a miracle. It's truly a miracle." George Bush recognized the power of pharmaceutical drugs in his State of the Union speech last night when he declared that the nation should give “…seniors access to the preventive medicine and new drugs that are transforming health care in America.” It’s fair that poor seniors, who paid into Medicare most of the lives, should have access to these drugs. Having said that, it would be folly to pass a prescription drug benefit without passing fundamental reform of the collapsing Medicare program. Creating a naked benefit like the House did last year would only further weaken the entire Medicare system. Why? Medicare’s top-down cost control strategy has failed. Medicare pays too much for medical services in some parts of the country and far too little in others. Many doctors now routinely refuse to take Medicare patients. Politically driven decision-making leaves hospitals teetering on the edge of financial ruin, waiting for last minute bailouts from Congress. George Bush knows that drugs can save lives and improve the quality of American health care. He also sees that Congress, left to its own devices, will destroy the Medicare system by simply adding a drug benefit to it. Thus, the tactical brilliance of the approach the President proposed in his State of the Union address: passing a drug benefit that exists in a new, parallel Medicare system. As the President put it, “Seniors happy with the current Medicare system should be able to keep their coverage just the way it is.” But, to get the drug benefit, a Medicare recipient would join a private insurance or doctor’s group. The result is that the “integrity” of Medicare is maintained, and frightened seniors that don’t want the drug benefit can simply stay in traditional Medicare.

01/29/2003
DHHS numbers don't add up
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Press Release

DHHS numbers don't add up

This article originally appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer on January 12, 2003. By PAT STITH JEAN P. FISHER, Staff Writers Dave Mosley wasn't out to uncover anything when he began asking questions in May 2002 about payments made to hospitals for Medicaid, the state-run health insurance program for the poor. Having been hired recently by the state Department of Health and Human Services, Mosley, 34, said he was merely trying to educate himself. "I just couldn't get some of the numbers that I was looking at to make sense," he recalled.

01/12/2003
A Rush for the Doors in August
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Press Release

A Rush for the Doors in August

This Week in Congress: The House has recessed for the month of August (see more on this below) and the Senate will join them after they finish a number of legislative measures this week.

07/30/2002
Into the Abyss: Will Senate Republicans Vote to Expand Medicare?
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Press Release

Into the Abyss: Will Senate Republicans Vote to Expand Medicare?

In 1965, Congress and President Johnson decided that the hospital costs of elderly Americans would be socialized. Soon thereafter, routine doctor’s visits and other treatments were included under the Medicare umbrella in exchange for a monthly premium deducted from beneficiaries’ Social Security checks. With outpatient prescription drugs taking on a more fundamental role in health care due to an abundance of new drug breakthroughs and treatments, it may seem logical to expand Medicare’s portfolio to socialize these costs as well.

07/30/2002
Letter to Senate Regarding Prescription Drug Coverage
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Press Release

Letter to Senate Regarding Prescription Drug Coverage

Dear Senator, I write on behalf of the nearly 300,000 members of Citizens for a Sound Economy to urge you to vote NO on any bill that provides a Medicare prescription drug benefit without fundamental restructuring of the entire Medicare system. While it may be tempting politically to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, such action would be unwise for two obvious reasons:

07/23/2002
Medicaid and the State Budget
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Press Release

Medicaid and the State Budget

I don’t know about you, but when Legislators start thinking that they know more about health care issues than doctors, I get nervous. By the way, remember that the definition of health care to politicians is “someone else paying for it.”

07/10/2002
Medicaid and Prescription Drug Talking Points
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Press Release

Medicaid and Prescription Drug Talking Points

North Carolina cannot solve its Medicaid crisis and close the state budget shortfall by limiting the price and availability of prescription drugs. Indeed, Medicaid spending has grown by over 85 percent over the past decade and now threatens to explode the budget of the state and its counties. However, to address this problem by limiting access to the most cost-effective medical therapy available, prescription drugs, is to miss the point entirely. North Carolina should work to reform Medicaid by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.

06/28/2002
Burying a Time Bomb in Red Tape
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Press Release

Burying a Time Bomb in Red Tape

In an attempt to ignore out of control spending, North Carolina government officials plan to limit access to prescription drugs for Medicaid beneficiaries. Unfortunately, this strategy is doomed to fail. Not only will it fail to close the budget shortfall, but will also fail the state’s Medicaid beneficiaries by depriving them of the therapies and medical treatments they need.

06/24/2002
Active Ingredient: Politics
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Press Release

Active Ingredient: Politics

No election year legislative session would be complete without the obligatory overture to senior voters through a proposed Medicare prescription drug benefit. Both Senate Democrats and House Republicans have fashioned plans to offer drug “insurance” for Medicare beneficiaries under the current Medicare system. The Republican bill would keep prescription drugs out of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ (CMS, formerly HCFA) portfolio, but do little to address the inefficiency and exploding costs underlying the current Medicare system.

06/18/2002
Memo to Congressional Leaders
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Press Release

Memo to Congressional Leaders

We can all read polls. Seniors want a prescription drug benefit as part of Medicare. And with Democrats planning to scare seniors with false and misleading attacks on Social Security, Republicans want to make sure they are on the “right side” of a core issue with seniors. But, polls aren’t everything. In fact, following the polls on a Medicare prescription drug benefit can get you into a deep political and policy bind. Republicans must keep in mind:

05/09/2002

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