The passage of the prescription-drug plan – which seniors across the country are slamming for its confusion, high costs and capriciousness – comes with accounts of strong-arm tactics to push it through the House by pharmaceutical and health care companies showering campaign gifts on key lawmakers, and cozy arrangements for those who wrote the bill and then departed for lucrative jobs as lobbyists.
Coincidentally, some of Medicare D(isaster)’s strongest supporters have made some career changes that appear to be in conflict w/their former roles as lawmakers.
Three specifics are detailed below.
Billy Tauzin is now in charge of the Pharmeucetical Research and Maufacturers Makers Association.(Ph Pharma) Another “coincidence” is that Tauzin received over $218,000 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturers over the past 15 years. More information on Tauzin’s campaign contributions is available here.
A third “coincidence” is that the RxPharma is opposed to the impoortation of prescriptions from Canada to the United States, despite the fact that the costs are less when ordering from Canadain pharmacies, and have actually INCREASED under Medicare D(isaster). A fourth “coincidence” is that Tauzin’s current salary at Ph Pharma is over one million dollars a year.
Another career change is that of John Scully, former CMS administrator. Scully received a waiver that permitted him to negotiate his contract w/his new employer. After leaving Health and Human Services Department, Scully has been making deals with the law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird and the private equity-investment firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. Some of the clients that he has signed up include Abbott Laboratories, Caremark, US Oncology, the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, and the American Association for Homecare.
By law, Scully may not approach HHS on behalf of clients until after a yearlong cooling-off period, but he may lobby Congress and other executive agencies on many matters right away, and he is free to provide “strategic advice” to clients. In addition, sources say, Scully has been tapped to join the boards of two medical companies that are Welsh, Carson clients: Ardent Health Services and Select Medical Corp.
In addition, the WaPo claims
Richard S. Foster, the government’s chief analyst of Medicare costs who was threatened with firing last year if he disclosed too much information to Congress, said last night that he believes the White House participated in the decision to withhold analyses that Medicare legislation President Bush sought would be far more expensive than lawmakers knew.
Foster has said publicly in recent days that he was warned repeatedly by his former boss, Thomas A. Scully, the Medicare administrator for three years, that he would be dismissed if he replied directly to legislative requests for information about prescription drug bills pending in Congress…
Scully defends his actions by claiming
“I was in health care for years. What do people want me to do, sell cars?”
A third career change was that of Senator John Breaux. Coincidentally, Breaux was one of two Democrats “allowed” in the final negotiations of Medicare D(isaster). Breaux is currently the chairman of the Medicare Education Nework. According to a a statemment by Breaux, the objectives of the Medicare Education Network are:
- educating Medicare beneficiaries about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit,
- working with the appropriate federal agencies to obtain up-to-date information to ensure that information disseminated by the network about Medicare Part D is factual and accurately conveyed,
- pre-empting confusion about the benefit,
- equipping beneficiaries and their caregivers to make informed choices.
Also, the organization claims that the sharing information about member organizations’ efforts, collaborating on activities, and identifying ways to work together will decrease the duplication of efforts and increase the effectiveness of outreach efforts.
The following disclaimer is added:
The network does not engage in legislative activities or take positions on pending legislative or administrative policies related to the Part D benefit and its implementation.
Interestingly, this is an excerpt from an LTE was printed in the WaPo, on February 10, 2006:
Medicare is responding to many of the initial program glitches by issuing guidance to plans and pharmacies on transition policies. It has increased the number of customer service representatives and encouraged the plans to do the same. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced how it intends to reimburse the states that have picked up the tab for those who fell through the cracks. CMS also has caseworkers finding solutions so that beneficiaries can get their medications.
The Medicare Rx Education Network, a coalition of 79 organizations, is working with CMS on identifying and addressing problems and on education and outreach.
Most people are getting their prescriptions. In fact, more than 1 million prescriptions are being filled every day under the program. More than 3.6 million people have signed up for the drug benefit, and 20,000 more are enrolling daily online.
Is Medicare Part D rolling out seamlessly? No. But today is better than yesterday. And tomorrow will be better than today. This plan needs a chance. It has the potential to save lives.
Medicare Rx Education Network
Sure looks like someone is taking a position on Medicare D(isaster) policies and implementation to me!