Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hope for humanity?

Reality has a liberal bias, and it appears that even a couple of Republican Senators are finally surrendering to Truth Triumphant (even if the Democrats, evidently due to something in the salt and pepper in the Senate cafeteria are still too chickenshit to proclaim the Truth out loud). First we had Chuck Hagel saying uh, no, we aren't "winning" in Iraq after all. Now Charles Grassley, who is Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has determined that maybe the drug companies, who are among the principal bankrollers of the Republican Party, have something to do with Medicaid's fiscal problems.

Grassley held hearings last week on Medicaid fraud, where he reminded the big drug dealers -- as represented by their trade association PhaRMA -- that from 2001-2004, the federal and state governments recovered $2 1/2 billion from drug companies due to Medicare and Medicaid fraud. (Hey, that's enough to finance the war in Iraq for nearly two weeks!) As a Justice Department attorney told the Committee, "pharmaceutical pricing schemes . . . against state Medicaid programs" are the biggest (and by far) component of Medicaid fraud.

Oh yeah, Grassley also says we could save $4 billion by using more generic drugs in Medicaid, and changing the way Medicaid sets the prices it will pay for drugs to prevent gaming the system.

Grassley warned PhaRMA not to try to get the False Claims Act defanged, and the PhaRMA representative was all wounded innocence. Oh no, we aren't doing anything like that. But Grassley told her that defense contractors and the hospital industry had already tried to gut it, and she'd better not get any ideas.

In other news, CNN announced that it is no longer going to provide massive, 24-hour coverage of shark attacks and missing white women. Then hell froze over.

(I am indebted to the Commonwealth Fund's weekly newsletter for a summary of the hearings.)

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