Every politician dreads the moment when the special interest group which paid for their campaign is in direct opposition to the well-being of the citizens they were elected to represent. Such is the case with Senator Burr, Senator Dole, and the pharmaceutical industry. Last week the Senate blocked a bill which would have allowed the government to negotiate lower drug prices on the 2003 Medicare Drug Bill. The vote was 55 “yes” (49 Democrats, 6 Republicans) and 42 “no” (42 Repubs, 1 Dem). 60 “yes” votes were required to pass the bill. Senators Burr and Dole voted no.
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That Senator Burr and Senator Dole are indebted to the pharmaceutical industry is not in dispute. Both senators have accepted significant contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. Richard Burr, who received more money from drug companies than any congressional candidate in 2004, has a career total of $585,149. Elizabeth Dole’s career total is “only” $208,672. However, most of that money was when she was elected in 2002 and ranked 4th on the pharmaceutical industry contribution list. Since she is running for re-election in 2008, I would be shocked if she is not in the top three this election cycle.
For North Carolina citizens, the 2003 version of the Medicare Drug Bill short-changes them in two ways. First, it is fiscally irresponsible. This is a I.2 trillion dollar entitlement, with drug company profits estimated at 139 billion dollars. As taxpayers, we are responsible for paying all of the bills, but have no ability to control any of the costs. Why not let the efficiencies of the free-market work for the taxpayers, for once? Secondly, it is morally irresponsible. Partly to maintain drug company profits, a gap in coverage (the “doughnut hole”) is required. Unlike other forms of insurance, Medicare Part D has a bizarre gap in coverage between $2,250 and $5,100 of drug expenses. This makes no medical sense since it effectively penalizes the sickest patients; usually those with chronic illness who can least afford an interruption in their medication. Allowing the government to negotiate drug prices would signal a shift of power from corporate interests back to the people, where it belongs.
Submitted by Drama Queen who is not available to post today.