Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 18, 2006

Medicare E

The medicare scam is bubbling up and will develop into a shitstorm for the Cheney administration. Writes a reader to Josh Marshall:

I have just started on the inpatient cardiology service at xxxxxx and have admitted two patients to the hospital in the past 24 hours who were unable to get important medicines as a result of the new plan (or lack there of). It is truly amazing! I don't think either is life threatening, but they both could have and will cost the tax payers and Medicare tens of thousands of dollars in needless hospital days.

But do not worry, the cavalry is on its way:

President Bush's top health advisers will fan out across the country this week to quell rising discontent with a new Medicare prescription drug benefit that has tens of thousands of elderly and disabled Americans, their pharmacists, and governors struggling to resolve myriad start-up problems.

But for a short moment, let's assume I am half smart elderly in need of the new medicare program and I indeed have a working PC and a modem in my home.

The pharmacist who just made me pay $54 for a weeks ration of betablockers, it was free of charge, i.e. paid by the state last year, said www.medicare.gov could solve my problem. So let's try:

The first point on top of that page leads me to some basic information:

Who can get Medicare prescription drug coverage?
Everyone with Medicare is eligible for this coverage, regardless of income and resources, health status, or current prescription expenses.

That is quite laudeable, isn't it? "everyone". But a bit below:

What if I have a limited income and resources?
There is extra help for people with limited income and resources. Almost 1 in 3 people with Medicare will qualify for extra help and Medicare will pay for almost all of their prescription drug costs.

Only 1 in 3 qualify, but everyone reagardless of income and resources is eligible - hmm.

I have not yet a grip on these two choices either:

There are two ways to get Medicare prescription drug coverage. You can join a Medicare prescription drug plan or you can join a Medicare Advantage Plan or other Medicare Health Plans that offer drug coverage.

You can join A or B or C's - two ways?

Back to their homepage. There is this Landscape of Local Plans link.

A map (requires Macromedia Flash) and, if you scroll down, a lot of plans for each state (requires Acrobat PDF Reader).

No, no, no - they told me not to install anything on this machine. Viruses you know? The don´t even have medicine for those and who knows if those would be covered anyway.

But I'll go back and try the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder Demonstration

Requires Macromedia Flash Player (version 7 recommended)
...
Screen resolution set to 1024x768. To make these changes, please follow the next simple steps (Windows XP):
...
1.  Clicking the image to the right or the link below will open up a new browser window.    
2. Depending on your connection speed, the demonstration will start playing momentarily.    
3. Use your computer's "F11" key to toggle between Full screen and normal screen. You'll want to view the demo in full screen mode.    
4. In "Full Screen Mode", right-click on the Menu Bar, and select "Auto-Hide" 5. Scroll down to access the built-in Macromedia Flash Player control bar for Pause, Play, and Stop options.    
6. The demonstration is approximately 10 minutes.

Ahemm - just a bit too weird for me right now.

Back to the homepage again. Let's try that menue on the left. There is My.Medicare.gov and it is even New. Sounds good to me.

Upps - "Important Announcements", got to read those first. Access, that is what I want.

A Pop-up blocking software package, such as the Google and Yahoo toolbars, may prevent a user from successfully accessing My.Medicare.gov.

I knew those crazy Californian companies were evil. Evil, evil, evil!

But do you get that other stuff they say?

Maybe Mac Users are better off.

Please view the chart below to determine the browser you need to have (based on your operation system) for utilizing My.Medicare.gov as a Mac user.

Hmm, there is just this one chart with Mac OS 9 and MAC OS x. And a bunch of browser version. But every one of these are "Not Supported"!!!

No, no, no, no. This is not my government. There must be something useful here.

Back to the Homepage.

On the top menu there is Help.  And the first point in Help is Helpful Contacts.

Finally something human!!!

Search Help

Navigation

Tabbed Menu Bar:

In the upper portion of the web page you will see different "tabs" with linking words on each tab, going horizontally across the page. These tabs take you to information about the particular area you are at in the website. The tab that is highlighted indicates the page you are on while the other are "faded" in the background. An example of a tabbed menu navigation bar appears below. This example tells you that you are at the "Related Websites" tab of the Helpful Contacts tool.

Layout/Functionality

...

Posted by b on January 18, 2006 at 21:12 UTC | Permalink

Comments

My mother is covered under this new drug benefit - and she now pays $5 for a month's supply of a generic that's available overseas for less than $1. (500% Profit??) Before this reform she used to be able to get it for free.

Posted by: Obs | Jan 18 2006 22:03 utc | 1

@Obs - why did she join that program?

Sorry I do just do not know. Did she had to join?

Posted by: b | Jan 18 2006 22:53 utc | 2

I saw CNN interview a pharmacist and The Director of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt, who basically denied the existence of the widespread authorization problems that the pharmacist described and then thanked the pharmacist for picking up the tab that government was supposed to pay. Then he urged patients not to leave the pharmacies until they got their meds!

The viewer was left with the impression that either elderly people would be camping out for days in front of pharmacy desks waiting for the 800 lines to pick up or the Bush Admin expected the pharmacists to pay for all the meds.

Heckuva job, Mikey!

Posted by: gylangirl | Jan 18 2006 23:36 utc | 3

I think we all now know where Brownie went after Katrina...

Posted by: dry fly | Jan 19 2006 1:49 utc | 4

Listen, they just upped the estimate for the number of people still dislocated by Katrina to over 2 Million! Anybody see that in their paper or on the "News"? If they can dislocate 1% of the population without a scream, they can fuck the elderly and poor with this. How? Buy some really big brooms, pick up the carpet and SWEEP.

Until the Dems decide to campaign for universal generic drug coverage at nationally negotiated prices, they will have no traction on this issue. Or they'll campaign on the outrage meme with no plan but to make it even worse. More medical expenses? Even better for a corrupt system. 1 in 2 males projected to get cancer over their lifetimes now. When will our "disease-care", because it surely has nothin' to do with health, system implode?

Posted by: Malooga | Jan 19 2006 4:47 utc | 5


$54 for one week of beta-blockers ? 3 years ago i got a prescription for a box of 50 tablets a 50mg each which i never used. IIRC i payed not more than 5 euro for that box of generica.

so either big pharma is screwing the americans royally or the person mentioned above uses betablockers for food.

my.medicare.gov looks bandwidth-challenged from here (austria) BTW.

Posted by: name | Jan 19 2006 5:09 utc | 6

Yes the system is corrupt. But people need to leave off drugs, and clean up their houses, bodies, dentistry and food. Cancer is caused by carcinogens. Mercury lying around loose is hazardous waste. In teeth what is it? Clean food now has to be labeled something: "organic," so poisoned is the food supply. Stop marinating ourselves in a thousand products put out by the cosmetic and fragrance industry of which there is no regulation whatsoever. See the products lists of fragrance ingredients manufacturers for their heavy reliance on aldehydes. Indoor air comes from outside--I know of no other source--and to the usually dirty mixture that comes in the door is added the vapors and emissions of another thousand accoutrements that are thought essential to housekeeping. Get rid of all this. Health can be restored, but not with drugs... it is much harder work than that.

Posted by: emereton | Jan 19 2006 5:30 utc | 7

I agree with you emereton. I spent last year recovering my failed health. I did the whole dental thing: removed all mercury, all metal crowns, pulled all failed root canals, and installed EAV tested materials that my body could tolerate. Then I homeopathically treated all underlying infections that kinesiological testing showed I had. Then, I underwent a series of colonics, massaged, balanced, detoxed, juiced, sprouted, and fermented, supplemented, chelated, anti-candidaed, cleansed, excersized, steamed and saunaed, meditated, sleep, sunned, watered, rested and healed. Never used toxics or aromatics in the house, but by the end even my kitties were eating a raw diet. I did get better. It took six months and cost me 50K. I was lucky that I could, and chose to, afford it. Most people in America can't. That is why we have a "disease-care" and not a "health-care" system.

Still, no matter what you do, we all get old and, if we live long enough, eventually need medical care. I took care of an aging mother after a stroke for three years. I worked with her diet, fed her quinoa and steamed kale and veggie juice till she accused me of trying to starve her to death, but that is not enough for someone that old and sick. She made a lot of changes for a senior, but still she needed medication (and lots of it) as a result of years of poor living habits like smoking, and if she didn't have good health care we would have been sunk. Still, I ended up spending 50K out of pocket for her. It is very hard to change people's belief systems when they are old and ailing and they have always believed in standard medical practice. Look, my sister's a doctor; I fight with her all the time. She was an organic hippie, but the brainwashing of med. school turned her reactionary.

The point is, we still need a health and disease care system that works for us, not to enrich the system. My sister is a specialist and makes $400K/yr. Five years ago, when she interned, she made 35K. Is she worth that much money or is our system skewed. When I visit her all I hear are stories about her little "game" she plays with her doctor friends: namely, how to scam as much as you can from the drug companies. They get flown to Miami Beach, eat in Madonna's resturant, drink $150 bottles of wine and then go to a 1/2 hour lecture to justify this Dyonesian frivolity. It's all a game to her. But we are paying. Our system is seriously broke; its the same legalized bribery system that politics is. Eventually,it will implode on its own accord, but that may come after the great die-off, not before it. How many will have to suffer? There is nothing wrong with activism to see people get proper care. And we will never completely do away with drugs.

Posted by: Malooga | Jan 19 2006 6:26 utc | 8

Man Finds New Hope in Life

Reuters - Warsaw, Poland

If you had asked Jean-Michel Dubernski, a Polish farmer in the tiny village of Czernica, about his hopes for the future, he would've given you a dour, tight-lipped frown, then turned away.

Jean-Michel suffered from recurring and severe bouts of chronic depression throughout his teenage years, which continued even as an adult. His wife, Nadya, describes how she would find him alone in the barn with the horses, making masks out of manure and trying them on his face.

"He just didn't find happiness in anything," she said with a little shrug.

Now Jean-Michel can smile in agreement.

A revolutionary new drug being marketed by the French pharmaceutical company Fluek-LaRoche changed everything for Jean. Overnight his glum outlook on life changed.

"I'm a new man!" he smiled, making tea for our visit. "Before I felt like there were two of me, one just moving robotically through life, and the other trapped behind this voiceless mask."

What's truly remarkable, now that Jean-Michel has at last found peace in his life, is that he was born with a 45-pound second head growing out of his abdomen just above his hip, along with the dwarf vestige of an handless arm that looks more like, well, a donkey dick.

"I just hope he doesn't realize," Nadya whispers with a sigh, "that 'Jean' is that second head."

A team of transplant specialists are preparing in Belgium to receive Jean next November 27th, hospital officials acknowledged on Wednesday.

"We hope to leap-frog the first face transplant, and transplant Mr. Dubernski's real head up onto his shoulders," a team surgeon explained to us, "before his new medication allows him to realize that he's stuck on his own hip."

There is no plan to salvage the useless arm.

Posted by: Gary Coleman | Jan 19 2006 6:32 utc | 9

C'mon. This top dog can't bark. Has Reuters merged with the National Enquirer? I know news has dumbed down, but sheeesh......

Which head did his wife marry? Which one looks in the mirror in the morning? Which one shaves? Can they see each other? Which one wears the hat? Which mouth eats the food?

making masks out of manure and trying them on his face. Which one? How does his wife feel about this unique "hobby", which appears to be quite unusual, even for Poland. He must smell great in bed. Can he make barnyard sounds, too? I bet his wife is as depressed as him, or as delusional.

a 45-pound second head growing out of his abdomen just above his hip Can he give himself "head"? And would that be a third head?

transplant Mr. Dubernski's real head up onto his shoulders Medical science hasn't progressed that far. A few too many nerves. You mean, we can behead somebody and sew a new one on? Can we try this out on Bush and Cheney? Far less nerves in Bush's case.

Posted by: Malooga | Jan 19 2006 7:02 utc | 10

My mom could had a reprieve until May - that is true. As I understand, the program is designed to get everyone to sign up to avoid selection bias.

Posted by: Obs | Jan 19 2006 11:35 utc | 11

Did you hear the news about Edward?
On the back of his head he had another face
Was it a woman's face or a young girl?
They said to remove it would kill him
So poor Edward was doomed

The face could laugh and cry
It was his devil twin
And at night she spoke to him
Things heard only in hell
But they were impossible to separate
Chained together for life

Finally the bell tolled his doom
He took a suite of rooms
And hung himself and her from the balcony irons
Some still believe he was freed from her
But I knew her too well
I say she drove him to suicide
And took poor Edward to hell

(Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan)

Let me see if I understand this correctly: the Bush Medicare plan is underfunded and broken. After weeks and weeks of him flying around the country on the taxpayer dime to promote this poorly planned fiasco of a "Medicare reform program," the Preznit is now going to send members of his Cabinet around the country to...erm...promote this poorly planned fiasco.

Here's an idea: how about we use that travel money to instead fix the damn program. You know, so senior citizens can get the drugs they need to keep them alive right now, instead of months down the road.

I'm thinking the money would be better spent on drugs for the elderly, the poor and the disabled than on Air Force One Presidential M&Ms, large PR backdrops and security details. Especially when it's being wasted on promoting a program that doesn't even freaking work. I'm just sayin'.

From ReddHedd at firedoglake


Posted by: beq | Jan 19 2006 12:18 utc | 12

If you are on medicaid and are dual eligible by state and federal medicare, you had to sign up or were signed up Jan. l.

If you are just on medicare you have until May 15 to choose a plan. Failure to choose a plan results in a 1% penalty per month for the rest of your life. Thus, the panic.

Posted by: | Jan 19 2006 12:27 utc | 13

If you are on medicaid and are dual eligible by state and federal medicare, you had to sign up or were signed up Jan. l. I didn't even realize that.

Posted by: Obs | Jan 19 2006 13:25 utc | 14

Don't worry. Another few hundred milllion to the Lincoln Group will make everyone happy with Bush's Medicare plan real soon! Propaganda is the cure that fixes everything with this administration!

Posted by: diogenes | Jan 19 2006 13:51 utc | 15

Here's an idea: how about we use that travel money to instead fix the damn program. You know, so senior citizens can get the drugs they need to keep them alive right now, instead of months down the road.

Again, firedoglake is a liberal blog--that is to say they have ultimate faith in Bush's incompetence. The fact of the matter is that the program is doing just what it was designed to do: open the door to the privatization, and eventual elimination, of Medicaid and Medicare, and create so much confusion that they will try to push the meme that government doesn't work, is inefficient and private corporations can handle this so much better. Plus, as an added benefit, create a Daily Outrage to allow the Propaganda Machine its daily dose of exercize, and the sheeple their daily dose of confusion. If they kill off and impoverish a slew of dem voting seniors, well, so much the better. Yes, it is hard to grasp the evil murderous mentality of this administration, who regard the populace as an obstacle to do away with, not a constituent to serve, but that is the only way to explain the pattern of the totality of their actions.

The point is there is nothing to "fix" about this, it should be repealed, period. Then we can work towards universal coverage, which is the real need and right of citizens, not this bullshit.

Posted by: Malooga | Jan 19 2006 15:04 utc | 16

@Malooga

What you said.
And remember Sec'y Leavitt's motto:

When there's change, there's an opportunity for things to go wrong

Posted by: citizen | Jan 19 2006 15:56 utc | 17

Mark Schmitt at tpmcafe explaining how the administration planned to screw up this program, but not suffer for it:

I tried to write an essay called, "Bad government is good politics." It turned out not to be publishable because it was largely speculative and because the Medicare bill was really the only example I had at the time. But I wish I"d stuck with it. . My thesis was that Republicans knew there would be a backlash against the Medicare bill, but they understood that it would take the form of a backlash against government in general, and that would be to their advantage. Seniors struggling over a dining table covered with complicated forms, small-print prescriptions, and no-win choices weren"t going to be muttering, "Goddamn Dennis Hastert, I"m never voting for his party again." They would be muttering, "Damn government, can"t do anything right."

Seniors have been bonded to government, and hence to the Democratic Party, by the painless single-payer health system known as Medicare. The Medicare drug benefit would, in effect, reverse this bond. In another piece last year, I referred to the prescription drug benefit as an "anti-entitlement," because it takes all the advantages of an entitlement -- predictability, fairness, efficiency -- ハand turns them on their head. As I see it, the political goal of the Medicare drug bill was not to cement a new alliance between seniors and the Republican Party around a government program, but primarily to destabilize the old alliance.

[snip]

Democrats have a very complicated (but absolutely true) story to tell here: They have to show that the Medicare bill was a guaranteed disaster from the start, that its consequences were not accidental but imtimately related to the corruption of the Republican majority, and that there is an alternative that would do more an cost less, and that Democrats would make it happen. We cannot assume that this story will occur automatically to people as they struggle with the program.

Remember, even if you don't have faith in the Dems, the admin can still use Dems [really, any extant or potential opposition] to cover their asses. So it does matter what sort of story gets told about them.

As Leavitt's motto articulates so cogently, the screwup was planned.

Posted by: citizen | Jan 19 2006 16:20 utc | 18

Mark Schmitt, who after all is a professional policy wonk, says it much better than I can. "it takes all the advantages of an entitlement -- predictability, fairness, efficiency -- and turns them on their head." Orwellian government.

But he places far too much faith in the Dems, who are feeding from the same larder by and large.

Posted by: Malooga | Jan 19 2006 16:46 utc | 19

Cancer is caused by carcinogens.

True, and the biggest carcinogen is oxygen. Cancer is a natural death. However, it can often be treated and life thus prolonged. And you it is smart to avoid extra carcinogens (like tobacco smoke) whenever you can.

Just to underscore the point Malooga made upthread.

Posted by: A swedish kind of death | Jan 19 2006 19:26 utc | 20

One of the main reasons that the pharmaceutical industry need to move away from one organisation owned by the people for the people buying drugs en masse and then passing them out to the consumer is that restores control of the market back into balance.

You wouldn't believe the tricks that these pharma groups pull around NZ to get top price for crappy drugs.

Because the NZ govt has one agency that buys the drugs for people who get medication under the state health program, which is 100% of citizens plus anyone else injured in an accident, they have a bit of negotiating power to make sure that pharma can't get together and price fix so easily.
Unless you are broke or are on an approved treatment program such as I am, patients pay some money towards the cost of the drugs but after a certain point the PBA picks up the total tab. Not great but it works OK.

The drug companies are fighting back in their typical underhanded fashion. If the pharmaceutical benefits authority decides not to buy a drug which is commonly available and is sufficiently out of copyright that generics are available for much less they have a new move.

Big pharma Co looks through it's books to find a drug that it has complete rights for and is the recommended treatment for some not particularly common but fatal or painful disorder drugX.

They go back to PBA and say "We are going to have to take drugX off the market. It just isn't viable to provide the support for drugX in the NZ market.

If the PBA hesitates or tries to stall until they can negotiate something, pharma pulls DrugX immediately.

PBA calls in it's consulting committe responsible for that disorder, to find an alternative. The consultative committee's are made up of specialist physicians who are believed to be untainted by free trips, dinners, hookers, or whatever bribe may be that year.

As soon as the alternative has been sorted out some specialist with a high standing and links to pharma puts out a press release scaring anyone who has the disorder and their families.

All sorts of dramas ensue. Pharma wins some of the time because NZ market is so small they can afford to up and leave and drop their customers into certain death to get their way.

The US market is so big Pharma just could not pull that one.

PBA is always accused of being tightasses but they came to the party when I needed em.

My chemo treatment is basically a shot once a week and a couple of handfuls of pills a day. The actual dosage varies according to blood test results.

It never exceeds what I am allocated ie it can get less but not more.

Apparently the pills are a non issue which Roche throws in for free. The price for the 52 ampoules? A bit over NZD$125,000 according to the approval letter. That converts (using the exchange rate at the time of the approval) to over USD$90,000.

For a few tubes of water! Oh and a silly shoulder bag which can hold the ampoules anyway as it doesn't stay cool enough.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jan 20 2006 1:55 utc | 21

which can't hold the ampoules anyway as it doesn't stay cool enough.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jan 20 2006 1:56 utc | 22

Saw this number in a German newspaper yesterday.

There are some 193,000 Germans out of 80,000,000 without healthinsurance.

All others have free doctors, hospital, meds though you will have to pay €10 for the first doctor visit in a quarter year and €5 copayment for drugs (not recuring and there caps on the drug copayment).

Posted by: b | Jan 20 2006 15:03 utc | 23

(sarcasm)

What is all this indulgent weak rabbitting about State Paid Medical Care ?

Countries like Switzerland have no such thing - each person is responsible! for their health care (private insurance) and for the care of their dependents should they have any (parents and/or children.)

(end friendly sarcasm)

The US health care system is the most expensive and the most inefficient in the world. About 13 % GDP and no or only a tiny bang for the buck at all for a large segment of the population. This state of affairs is starkly exemplified by the fact that some hospitals run free programs for children who are mysteriously ill - that is, fail to thrive. Highly qualified and fantastically paid professionals run series of tests and consultations on these children and write up recommendations, regimens, advise on medecines etc. However, to be well, the children need what doctors cannot provide: a salubrious home (or a home itself), with a some measure of quiet and cleanliness; they need a table and chair for eating at their level; they need a caretaker to eat with them; they need ‘healthy’ food; they need to eat three times a day. I’ll stop there, except for the TV: babies and under 3s should not often be exposed to constant noise which comprises piped speech (and faces).

That is the first thing that needs to be fixed. Medecine is not a high tech panacea that can solve problems like failure to thrive, allergies, etc. Poverty makes people ill. Simple.

The second thing is the employer-employee health insurance link. These ‘benefits’ offered by employers when they could not compete to find employees in other ways should be abolished. They harm the employees, the pop. at large and the business itself.

The third thing that needs to be fixed (beyond the good care for the rich, bad care for the poor equation) is waste / profiteering. The fourth is partly replacing individual treatment of individual ills with rational public health care policies, which means, for example, negotiation and compromise between pro-birthers and those who would want to distribute free condoms. Or banning some cosmetics, etc., as pointed out above.

Posted by: Noisette | Jan 20 2006 17:18 utc | 24

The comments to this entry are closed.