Seniors on Medicare overpay $1,000 per year for drugs thanks to corruption in Congress
Farid A. Khavari
Since 2003, Big Pharma cartels have ripped off over $500 billion from those who can least afford it, while sick elderly people have to choose between buying food or drugs. This affects everyone and this corruption has cost Florida alone at least 500,000 jobs. Here's what an independent governor can do in Florida, at no cost to taxpayers, to slash the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare seniors and everyone else.
I burned with anger and outrage when the pharmacist told a senior lady that her prescriptions cost $149. My heart broke when she said, "That is all the money I have to live on for the rest of the month! I won't be able to buy food!" It is shameful that in the most prosperous nation on earth millions of senior citizens have to choose between drugs and food. This is the result of one of the nastiest examples of government corruption in history. Here is what only an independent governor can do about it in Florida.
Prescription drug coverage under Medicare is complicated and confusing because prescription benefits are administered by private insurance companies, who can cover--or not cover--whatever they want and are guaranteed a profit over and above the normal high Medicaid prices. Seniors who need a lot of medications end up paying about $4,700 per year out of pocket for prescription drugs. Stop and imagine what that would do to your family budget if you earn $50,000 per year. Now imagine what it does to someone depending on Social Security.
This situation exists because by law Medicare is not allowed to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies! The VA, for example, is allowed to negotiate and pays between 44 - 58% less for the same drugs. Price fixing by the greediest and most predatory corporations on earth--legalized by greedy lapdog Congressmen-- steals at least $50 billion per year from the people who can least afford it: sick old people.
These pharmaceutical companies are bigger and more profitable than all of the other drug cartels on earth combined.
12-term Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) pushed the price-fixing Medicare Prescription Drug Bill through Congress in 2003, then went on to a $2 million-per-year job as president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Then-boss of Medicare Thomas Scully threatened to fire anyone who revealed what the deal would cost, while negotiating for a nice job as a pharmaceutical lobbyist as the bill was going through Congress. At least 14 Congressional aides quit to work for drug and medical industry lobbyists.
Since then, old folks have paid at least half a trillion dollars in excessive drug costs since the law was passed, and nothing is being done by our useless Congress.
Those hundreds of billions in free profits are the most despicable example of big money government corruption in history--and only cost the prescription drug cartels a lousy few billion supporting their lapdog politicians to get them. Ka-ching! Hooray for the "free market".
There is no excuse for overpricing drugs, and there is no excuse for the ridiculous and expensive insurance carnival system of getting them. It is the worst form of corporate welfare ever, transferring money from sick people directly to the cartels. Since Democrats and Republicans alike feed at the drug cartels' troughs, there is no hope of a bipartisan solution. Prepare to pay for drugs until you starve to death! Unless. . .
An independent governor with no party ties and no big money backers can work wonders with the support of the people. Here is what I will do about prescription drug prices in Florida.
First, representing all 19.5 million Floridians, I will file a lawsuit against Medicare, the US government, and the pharmaceutical companies for price fixing, corruption, and every other charge our Attorney General can find. We will demand our share of that $500 billion plus damages and pay that money to the seniors who were ripped off. We will demand that the court allow Florida to negotiate with the drug companies and/or import the same products from other countries.
Sound impossible? Remember the Tobacco Lawsuits? But it will take time, so we need to start now. I will ask governors of all of the other states to join in. Of course, many will hold back rather than offend big party donors like the drug cartels.
Next, here is what we can do almost immediately. It involves a tax that even Tea-Partiers will love, the first tax in history that people will be happy about.
I propose an immediate state excise tax on pharmaceutical companies and or their distributors in Florida equal to 110% of the difference between what each product sells for in Canada and other countries, and what they charge Medicare for the same drugs. We publish the price list, and the pharmacy deducts 100% of the price difference as a discount to the Medicare customer on each prescription. The pharmacy gets reimbursed by the state out of the special tax money. The extra 10% of the tax will cover the cost of administering these payments--so the plan costs our taxpayers nothing, saves our seniors billions of dollars per year, and supports hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Florida.