March 12, 2006

Survival of the richest

The next time one of your Conservative friends extols the trickle-down virtues of unchecked corporate power, expresses his admiration for Republican Congressional attitudes and policies toward national health and Big Pharma, or fetes the devotion of his Party to "a culture of life," whip out this little anecdote from today's New York Times:
On Feb. 3, Joyce Elkins filled a prescription for a two-week supply of nitrogen mustard, a decades-old cancer drug used to treat a rare form of lymphoma. The cost was $77.50.

On Feb. 17, Ms. Elkins, a 64-year-old retiree who lives in Georgetown, Tex., returned to her pharmacy for a refill. This time, following a huge increase in the wholesale price of the drug, the cost was $548.01.

Ms. Elkins's insurance does not cover nitrogen mustard, which she must take for at least the next six months at a cost that will now total nearly $7,000. She and her husband, who works for the Texas Department of Transportation, are paying for the medicine by spending less on utilities and food, she said.
I won't rattle on about the obvious moral of this tale. I've already sounded alarms about this pricing trend and the rationale behind it, on the very day, coincidentally, that Mr. and Mrs. Elkins were making their "Sophie's Choice" between life-sustaining medicine - and eating with the lights on. Writing about another cancer drug which had suddenly, and arbitrarily, been priced out of the reach of a majority of Americans, I worried that...
...if this "What's it worth?" philosophy does trickle down, unopposed and unchecked, into all areas of pharmaceutical products and medicinal treatments, the poor and middle class will face an increasingly bleak future as more and more medical advancements become available solely to the rich.

We should all be profoundly disturbed by Genentech's defiant stance, and insist on a critical pronouncement of principle from our government. Perhaps this is the pivotal time at which we must decide, as a nation, whether health itself will become a commodity, controlled by corporate interests and sold to the highest bidder, or if it will be the right of all people who are citizens of the wealthiest country on the planet.
Read the full piece, which, unfortunately, is still relevant today. And be sure to check out a terrific analysis by Star A. Decise of The Enigmatic Paradox, warning about a seismic shift in corporate attitudes toward "how we ration health care, and how we value life." Ms. Star was way ahead of the curve on this issue, writing in mid-February:
[S]uch a revolutionary change in the country's fundamental approach to the very notion of equality and fair treatment shouldn't be slipped into the fabric of American life without careful scrutiny and public debate. It's a dilemma that confronts us all and will only become more pressing as scientists discover new life-sustaining drugs and treatment and invent ever more expensive technologies.
So here we are, for the second time inside of a month, confronting news that apparently confirms the beginning of a disturbing trend in medicinal pricing. As the Times notes:
The increase has stunned doctors, who say it starkly illustrates two trends in the pharmaceutical industry: the soaring price of cancer medicines and the tendency for those prices to have little relation to the cost of developing or making the drugs...

[P]eople who analyze drug pricing say they see the Mustargen situation as emblematic of an industry trend of basing drug prices on something other than the underlying costs. After years of defending high prices as necessary to cover the cost of research or production, industry executives increasingly point to the intrinsic value of their medicines as justification for prices.
So remember to be grateful for our Conservative leaders, America. Give thanks for the largesse they've bestowed upon the Pharmaceutical and Insurance Industries. Celebrate that your elected Republican representatives spend $6 billion a month fighting a war in a nation that never threatened the U.S., while turning a blind eye to the very real terror of medicinal price-gouging and the simultaneous waffling of insurers.

And never forget that, under the guidance of this Administration and its followers, "a culture of life" has always been code for "survival of the richest" - and that the select members of that culture are the only ones whose lives our government really cares to protect.

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Blogger Star A. Decise said...

I can only hope that what you so aptly call "a culture of life" turns into a movement for reform.

It's a sad day when health becomes a question of economic survival. A key point to remember is that this is a self-reinforcing feedback loop - the more expensive medicines get, the more limited insurance will become, which will drive up costs, which will escalate the cost of insurance . . .

The trend gives new meaning to the maxim "I can't afford to get sick.' But now I can't afford to go bankrupt either. Death, it seems, will become the sole haven from our health care bills. In the afterlife, at least, we'll know that the proverbial knock-on-the-door isn't a bill collector.

12 March, 2006 13:04  
Blogger Lynne said...

I've already made the decision that if I am diagnosed with cancer, unless it is stage 1, I will not say anything to anyone and not seek treatment. I will, however, beg my boss to keep me on until I die so my family will get the life insurance I have through work.
Otherwise, they would get nothing and be left to deal with bill collectors.
Is this a great country, or what?

12 March, 2006 16:33  
Anonymous abi said...

Lynne, any country that is capable of providing health insurance for all its citizens, but excludes 46 million of them, is not a great country. There's no excuse for it, no rationale whatsoever. It would even make more economic sense. It's simply a case of powerful insurance corporations putting self-interest before national interest, and of too many in Congress being in their pockets. Shameful beyond words.

12 March, 2006 18:47  
Anonymous tofubo said...

i pray my wants to lemmy
for he knows from where i bitch
i work to meet my needs of life
but he taught me to eat the rich

13 March, 2006 12:24  
Blogger Tahoma Activist said...

I love the can-do spirit of America! In the olden days, we were taught that anyone can get a job and can be successful and can rise to the top of his profession, only now we know that many haven't been able to share in the profits of the success of this country. Because the Middle Class got too angry, demanding rights and things that management didn't want to give them. So they waged war on reason and the Middle class lost, many of them not even knowing that they had jumped sides away from sensible policy making to the world of knee-jerk reactionism. How's that Republican recovery doing for these righties' bottom lines?
You think they're feeling the richness of the ownership society yet?

Or are they like me, feeling the pinch of rising costs and contracting purchasing power? What's happening to our country, and why isn't the media saying anything about it?

When will it be our turn to take charge of our identity? When we will we seize the halls of power through mass concerted action?

Could it be that in Solidarity we have the greatest strength?

Learn more about "Solidarity" and the concept of Unified Mass Action at our website: America in Solidarity, or check out our new South Sound Activism blog, The American Peoples' Congress. Join us, and let's tell the stories that haven't been told. Let's change the world with the words describing our actions. Let's be part of the solution, and leave the problems behind us.

The world needs your talents. Let's put em to use.

This March 18th, you can march in the streets or preach on in the blogosphere. No matter how you do it, I urge you to fight for what's important in life and demand justice, from all the clowns that try to front.

We the People built this country - only we the People should be allowed to tear it down.

Let's build it back, and put Bush and Dick Cheney in a lonely prison on the far edge of civilization, with no visitors and very crappy food.

I think that'll mellow em out a little bit. Maybe we'll even let em out a few years down the road, like when they end up in the hospital or something like that.


17 March, 2006 22:47  

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