Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SENATE REPUBLICANS STALL MEDICARE BILL THAT COULD ENSURE LOWER DRUG PRICES FOR AMERICANS: VOTE ALSO HURTS TROOPS

“Now is the time to create some balance in the public-private partnership which is the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit by allowing the HHS Secretary to have a proper and appropriate role in negotiating for Medicare prescription drugs. Most of us want this program to succeed and we can do that by giving the Secretary a full oversight role. He should be examining performance and pointing out where drug plans need to improve. But today if he pointed out a product on which poor discounts were being achieved, he would be accused of interference. And if a plan reported intransigence, he could not respond. That makes no sense. It serves neither taxpayer nor the Medicare beneficiaries." --Senator Olympia J. Snowe. (R-Maine), 01.12.2007. (senate.gov)


Washington D.C.--The vote is getting closer than it ever has, so we're seeing some progress on this bill. Leave it to the GOP to continue hurting the average American so someone can turn-a-buck. Nonetheless, there are defections occurring within their ranks on this one, sensing that they now really have to give an angry public something for their hard-earned taxes paid into the public-fund. They know that we're all smelling-blood, and itching for some more payback at the polls next-year, so some of them are losing their nerve. The real name of the bill is "Medicare Enhancements for Needed Drugs Act of 2007," or S.250 for the 110th session of Congress, which was first introduced by Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), and co-sponsor senators Feinstein (D-Cal.), John McCain (R-Az.), Wyden (D-Or.) on February 1st, 2005.

Wyden has been one of the real stalwarts in this, and has kept the legislation alive-and-well. Today was just a minor-setback, as the vote is now 55-42, just five shy of a cloture. It's not yet at the 2/3rd's needed to overcome a Bush veto, but he might not even be in office after this year anyway. Snowe and Wyden have been working-at giving the Health and Human Services Secretary the ability to negotiate the prices of drugs for Americans, veterans, and even our wounded.

Snowe and Wyden have a long history of seeking to give the HHS Secretary that power. In 2004, they first introduced legislation to allow such bargaining and in March 2006, the Senate voted 54-44 a Snowe-Wyden amendment to accomplish the same goal. However, the measure needed 60 votes to overcome a point of order. Additionally, the Snowe-Wyden bill would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on prescription drug prices including prices from private plans, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration and Part Medicare. (snowe.senate.gov, 01.12.2007)

Yep, the U.S. Department of Defense, which means veterans, active-duty--in-other-words, our "troops." Republicans in the Senate--simply-put--aren't supporting our troops, and neither is the Executive. But it's worse when they inflict this on all of us, and it's an ongoing-criminality. The margin is closing on this bill, and it will eventually be passed. The majority of Americans want this, it just depends on how you phrase the questions, as pollsters know all-too-well.It's interesting that John McCain supports this legislation, it really is.

It's like Johnson thinking that he could pay-for "the Great Society" programs while running a war. Why he continues to support the Bush administration, while pushing such substantial social legislation is probably more a question about politics itself than McCain or his voting-record. More Republicans are going to have to follow-his-lead as their popularity erodes to nil when the occupation of Iraq finally collapses.

AARP advocacy volunteers last month hand delivered signed petitions from Arizona constituents to the offices of Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl. The petitions, signed by 2000 Arizona residents, urge the Senators to vote for a bill that is coming up for a vote this month in the U.S. Senate that would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to bargain for lower Medicare drug prices under Medicare Part D. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 4, the "Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007" by a bipartisan vote of 255 to170. AARP strongly supported H.R. 4 and is now putting its weight behind a similar piece of legislation coming before the Senate. (AARP.com)

Perhaps S.250 (The MEND Act of 2007) is the trump card he's keeping to save himself when that time comes. This makes him either incredibly schizoid, or smarter than most GOP incumbents. That's not hard, yet he's leading the charge with Iraq, even now. A strange man, possibly insane, but we'll take his support of this bill. The fact that there are a lot of senior citizens in Arizona also might have influenced his stance on all of this.

It's supporting bills like this that could save the GOP, but we all know it's antithetical to what they are: the political-arm of Big business and finance. But perhaps they can disentangle themselves from Big Pharma and the insurance companies. Only major-upheavals in the realms of the political and social were ever going to do it, and again, the internet has been making-inroads in this direction for Progressives of every-stripe.

The Text of the MEND Act, or S.250: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:S.239

Senator Snowe's comments from January 2007: http://snowe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=16d57c1b-802a-23ad-4f0e-e074e923a917&Region_id=&Issue_id=

"AARP Delivers Petitions to Kyl and McCain": http://www.aarp.org/states/az/az-advocacy/aarp_delivers_petitions_to_kyl_and_mccain.html