Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Oh true Apothecary! Thy drugs are quick.
— Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
The drug companies are our friends. Making drugs that make us well is not all they do. They use part of their profits to make sure that the very best people are elected to the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The very best people are Republicans.
Through September 2006 drug companies had given $8.7 million to political campaigns. If both Democrats and Republicans were equally good, those funds would be distributed evenly between the two parties. Democrats and Republicans are not equally good-Republicans are better. That’s why 69% of drug company contributions have gone to Republican candidates. (In fairness it must be noted that although Pfizer sent 67% of its contributions to Republicans before October, its most recent disclosures show that it has had some sort of epiphany and during October gave only 41% of its contributions to Republicans and 59% to Democrats. There is no logical explanation for this change of heart.)
Drug companies are, of course, deeply indebted to the Republicans. In crafting the Medicare prescription drug benefit that went into effect in 2006, the Republicans left drug pricing to the free market place. One of the proposals that Democrats favored would have permitted Medicare to negotiate prices for drugs that were part of the prescription drug benefit. Republicans did not like that idea since that inserts the federal government into a decision that should be only between the senior and his or her pharmacist. Thanks to the failure of that proposal here is a scene that is repeated thousands of times a day around the country.
The senior walks into the pharmacy and asks for prescription X and is told how much it costs. If the senior does not like the price the senior tells the pharmacist that if the price does not come down, the senior is going to buy the drug at a different pharmacy. Most pharmacists will immediately ask the senior how much the senior is willing to pay and as soon as the senior tells the pharmacist what a fair price is the pharmacist fills the prescription at the lower price and notifies the drug company that in the future the pharmacist will be paying the drug company less. This is an example of the Republican’s idea of the free market in action and that is why they refused to let Medicare negotiate drug prices. They knew seniors could do a better job on their own. That is not all the Republicans did for seniors. The Republicans made sure that the new prescription drug program would not permit the federal government to start its own drug program that would provide seniors with lower prices. That, too, would not be the American way.
All of this helps explain why the drug companies have given Republican Jim Talent of Missouri $900,000 this year. He was one of the big supporters of the drug bill. Republican Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was another. He, too, is a big beneficiary of the drug companies’ generosity. According to the Center for Responsive Politics he has been well rewarded for his efforts in addition to feeling good, knowing he’s done something for (a) seniors (b) the drug companies and© himself. In 2000 when he last ran for the U.S. Senate he was 15th among those receiving funds from drug companies. This year he’s number one and has received almost $500,000 in contributions from drug companies. His opponent, Bob Casey has not, however, been forgotten. He’s a Democrat and he’s gotten $11,850 so far this year.
In addition to wanting to express their gratitude to Republicans for helping preserve the attributes of democracy we all cherish, the drug companies do have a non-altruistic motive. It pertains to the so-called donut hole that seniors dislike. When the combined total that a senior and the senior’s insurance company have paid for drugs in a given year reaches a certain amount ($2,250 in 2005), the senior enters the donut-hole and must pay the full cost of drugs until a certain total ($3,600 in 2005) has been spent by the senior.
Nancy Pelosi, who would be speaker of the House if the Democrats win in November, says the first thing Democrats will do if they take control is launch an attack on the free enterprise system loved by Republicans. That’s not how she puts it. She says Democrats will change the rules to enable the government to negotiate drug prices paid for by Medicare. She says the resultant savings would be so great that there would be no need for the donut hole. The losers would be the drug companies. The winners would be the seniors. That is another reason drug companies give most of their support to Republicans. It is a reason seniors should vote for democrats.