An apple a day keeps healthcare reform away

We would still like healthcare reform legislation to succeed this year — but we are not nearly as enthusiastic about it as we were just a few short months ago.

For starters, the Obama Administration isn’t calling it “healthcare reform” anymore. Now it’s “health insurance reform.”

Reformers have lowered their sights. They aren’t trying to fix Big Pharma’s stranglehold on the American consumer anymore. All they are trying to do now is to offer a public alternative to Big Insurance. And even this small measure of reform may not become law.

If it doesn’t, and so-called “universal health care” passes, it will simply be another handout to corporations, paid for by taxpayers, just as Medicare Part D was. The government will simply pay to have everyone “covered,” but won’t fix the underlying problems that make America’s healthcare system so overpriced and inefficient.

What a shame.

I haven’t given up hope that the public option will succeed. But I have given up all hope that the bill will include meaningful improvements in prescription drug prices.

As Ralph Nader explains:

Obama invites (drug companies) to the White House, where they presumably pledged to give up nearly $300 billion dollars over ten years without any specifics about how this complex assurance can be policed.

No matter, in return Obama and his aides agreed not to press Congress to authorize the federal government to negotiate drug prices with the drug industry. Don’t worry: the taxpayers will pay the bill.

At a meeting on July 7 at the White House between drug company executives, Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), the industry, according to The New York Times, was promised that the final legislative package would not allow the reimportation of cheaper medicines from Canada or other countries even if they meet our drug safety standards.

Do you see anything odd about the pharmaceutical industry promising “X dollars over X years” in lower prices to consumers? Does that sound like a free market process to you?

In other words, if I had a business selling apples, and I sold them for 25 cents each, you would assume that this price would be based on what the market would bear. That is, if I sold them for 30 cents, I would not sell them all and some of them would rot. But if I sold them for 20 cents, I would sell them all too fast and not make as much money as I could have. That’s the market setting the price.

Big Pharma doesn’t operate by such rules. It has a friend — the U.S. government — that decides how much money it can make on the drugs it develops.

The government decides this by giving drug companies patents, and then extending these patents again and again, so that they can have a monopoly on the drugs they sell.

If I’m the only one in the world who’s allowed to sell apples, I can probably get a lot more than 25 cents an apple, can’t I?

In fact, I can start marketing apples as a sweet, juicy alternative to Russian caviar if I want to. I can sell them for $100 each if I want, right?

And what would be even better is if your doctor informed you that, for your health, you had to have an apple every day. Then you would have to find a way to get one, whether you could afford it or not, wouldn’t you?

Gee, it’s great to be in the apple-selling business, isn’t it?

So here I am, selling my apples at an outrageous profit, buying G4s to fly me around, spending billions of dollars on TV ads to ensure that consumers “ask their doctors” whether they need to eat more apples, when all of a sudden President Obama calls.

“Hey,” he says, “what would you say about selling your apples for $95 instead of $100 for a few years? And maybe selling them for $50 to seniors in the Medicare Part D doughnut hole? That way we could say that you have contributed $X billion in cost savings to our healthcare reform bill.”

“Hmm,” I think. “Why not? It’s good PR — and how funny that people will think they’re actually getting a bargain by paying $95 for an apple.”

If you want to pay $95 for an apple, you can wait for the benefits of Obamacare. Otherwise, you should seek the immediate benefits of licensed Canadian pharmacies.

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