Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Wednesday, August 2

Sen: Brown (D) Denounces Medicare Part D Fiasco

Yesterday I attended a press conference at the Ernest J. Bohn Center in Cleveland where senatorial candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) continued his aggressive counterattack against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ads now running in this state, which praise rival Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville) for supporting the disastrous Medicare Part D legislation. As I said to blogger Cindy Zawadzki of HeightsMom and As Ohio Goes before the event started, people should focus on the fact that the TV ads are sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is funded in large measure by HMOs, and not sponsored by some outfit that protects the interests of seniors, such as the AARP. I think that fact shows convincingly that this law was written and has the effect of benefiting principally the drug companies and HMOs, and seniors only incidentally.

Above is a shot of Brown talking to seniors before the event started. Here is how the event is described in the subsequent press release:
[Brown] today joined seniors, people with disabilities, and advocates to call for a simple, affordable Medicare drug benefit. Many seniors are now hitting the doughnut hole - a gap in coverage - in their Part D plans. They are being forced to pay full price for their prescription drugs - more than $2,000 in unexpected out of pocket costs. Senator Mike DeWine voted in favor of the Medicare Part D benefit. DeWine has taken nearly $300,000 in contributions from the drug and insurance industry.

Here is a shot of seniors gathering before the event, with Brown and some media and campaign types in the background. The Part D legislation, passed in one of those hold-the-vote-open-and-twist-arms sessions the Republicans love, and only after concealing the true and staggering cost of the law from legislators, included a $100 billion subsidy for the pharmaceutical industry, and has allowed the industry to earn tens of billions more off of the backs of the poorest seniors and taxpayers.

"After taking money from the drug industry, Senator DeWine voted to prohibit Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices," Brown said. "Mike DeWine can try to distort his record, but the truth is that the price of prescription drugs has gone up under Medicare Part D. Part D has provided a boon to the drug and insurance industry but has saddled Ohio seniors with higher costs and gaps in coverage."

The wholesale price of brand name prescription drugs has increased 3.6% since the Part D plans have taken effect. For seniors in the doughnut hole, drug costs have skyrocketed. The average senior will hit the doughnut hole on September 22.

Seniors and people with disabilities are encountering other problems with their new plans. As the market adjusts and insurance companies try to maximize profits, plans are changing which drugs they offer. Yet seniors are locked into their plans for all of 2006 even if the drugs on which they depend are no longer covered. Others who waited past May 15 to settle on the plan of their choice have been blocked out of enrollment and will be forced to pay a late enrollment penalty.

This is a shot of Mrs. Patricia McIntyre, who hit the doughnut hole along with her husband in June. Now they pay $87 per month in premiums for Part D coverage, and in return they get the privilege of paying 80% of the cost of their medications. Also, Mrs. McIntyre was unable to get medication she needed for a bladder infection because the drug prescribed wasn't on the approved list for her plan. (Anyone who has cared for a senior knows that at that age a bladder infection can be extremely serious. Under this screwed-up law, you can't switch plans just because you discover that a drug you need isn't covered, and plan sponsors can change what they cover whenever they want.) Paying 80% of their prescription drugs is taking away money that the McIntyres have set aside for other important needs, and cutting into their "rainy day" money.

Here is a shot of 18th Ohio House District candidate John M. Celebrezze, whose uncle Anthony J. Celebrezze was the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under JFK and LBJ and shepherded the original Medicare law through Congress. (He also served five terms as Mayor of Cleveland, and later as a federal appellate judge here.) Celebrezze said that the most difficult part of his parents' marriage was when they could not take care of themselves physically or financially. While his father was in assisted living, paying as much as $700 per month for medications, Sherrod Brown visited the facility and talked to him, listening to the problems he faced. Brown arranged a bus trip to Canada to buy affordable drugs, meeting the bus prior to departure at 7:00 a.m. in Medina. (Celebrezze rode the bus and bought medications for his father, saving hundreds of dollars.) Celebrezze said that "Sherrod Brown's commitment to this issue is brought forward by his commitment to my family," and "I'm confident that with Sherrod Brown as Senator, something will be done about what is a very serious problem."

Here is Brown talking to seniors after the event. They talked about the heat, old neighborhoods, and sports (and Brown autographed his campaign flyer for a fellow's grandson), but they also talked about the big problems the seniors are having with paying for drugs. Brown says that instead of a drug plan that provides windfall profits for drug companies, Medicare should be a simple, affordable benefit that promises savings for seniors. Medicare should be required to negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices, like the Veterans Administration does.

Here is Brown talking to 16th Ohio House District candidate Jennifer L. Brady, with whom I had lunch after the press conference. I will be posting a profile of Brady shortly.


At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite part of the PD "coverage" of this event was their meaningless boilerplate quote from the stock academic "expert":

<<<"As more and more seniors get into the doughnut hole, which they will in the months before the election, they will be very unhappy," said Robert Binstock, a political scientist and professor of aging, health and society at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

But he says Democrats shouldn't assume that this resentment will draw votes away from Republicans. That's because older voters consider other issues, too - the same issues as other Americans, he says.

Medicare, he predicts, will be dwarfed by problems elsewhere - "the war in Iraq and its consequences for Middle East and world peace.">>>

Is this guy even remotely aware that nearly two-thirds of voters are UNHAPPY with the war in Iraq and the lack of a ceasefire in the Middle East and that they DON'T approve of how the Republicans are handling this? What world is this guy living in if he thinks that Iraq is going to help reelect Republicans?


At 8:40 AM, Blogger Susan said...

Nice haircut, Sherrod.

At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Daniel Haszard said...

Eli Lilly is a big drug company that puts profits over patients.

Daniel Haszard Bangor Maine zyprexa caused my diabetes http://www.zyprexa-victims.com


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