Thursday, January 11, 2007

Is Norm Coleman repeating Kennedy's mistakes ?

November’s election was not only an opportunity for voters to elect members for the 110th Congress, but also send a message to those that were not up for election this term.

A lot will be written that voters sent a message concerning Iraq that President Bush is ignoring, but was there also a message that Norm Coleman is not hearing ?

A main issue in the Klobuchar-Kennedy race was Medicare Part-D Prescription Drug program. Kennedy proudly defended his vote and ran alarmist commercials that "Klobuchar's plan would ration prescription drugs, increase wait times for medicines, limit choices and take drugs like Prevacid and Lipitor completely away." Klobuchar issued a quick and dramatic response stating that she would never do anything that would impact the medications that Minnesotans including those that her Mother uses. Klobuchar’s plan cited the Veterans Administration as a good example of the government negotiating for lower drug prices.

Tuesday, Coleman said “We’ve got a system now that’s working” and that he would continue to oppose government involvement in Medicare drug prices as he is concerned that price negotiation would “add another layer of bureaucracy.”

Coleman doesn’t get it. The question is not whether the system is “working”, but is it working in a cost effective manner? "Working" does not mean efficient. "Working" doesn't mean that it should not be improved.

On July 18, 2006, The New York Times reported :
The pharmaceutical industry is beginning to reap a windfall from a surprisingly lucrative niche market: drugs for poor people. The windfall, which by some estimates could be $2 billion or more this year, is a result of the transfer of millions of low-income people into the new Medicare Part D drug program that went into effect in January. Under that program, as it turns out, the prices paid by insurers, and eventually the taxpayer, for the medications given to those transferred are likely to be higher than what was paid under the federal-state Medicaid programs for the poor.

Fiscal conservatives like myself have long complained about the cost effectiveness of this program. During the last session, the Senate passed legislation that would have improved the program, but the Republican House leadership would not bring the legislation forward. The Democrat-lead 110th Congress has already moved HR4 to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill has 196 co-sponsors including Minnesotans Elison, McCollum, Oberstar and Walz. Senators Snowe (R-Maine) and Wyden (D-Oregon) re-introduce their legislation on January 10 - S250. Snowe and Wyden count 58 Senators as supporting their legislation.

Some form of this legislation will pass. Why Coleman does not see that he is not serving his constituents is beyond me. Alas, since the 2008 election will cost millions, he may be valueing donations and support from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America greater than an improved and cost effective program that users and taxpayers will like better.

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