Saturday, August 27, 2005

Morning After Post

I wan't going to post this weekend, but I found myself with some free time this morning, and decided to go with Plan B, while hunched Over-the-Counter in my kitchen. I just couldn't justify delaying this any longer, you dig?

Focus on Medicare

I got to take a little break from my cube and computer last week to participate in a focus group on Medicare Part D. It was the second time I had been invited to do so in my Company, and I was eager to voice my opinion. This time, we were being asked to evaluate educational materials for both patients and employees. The idea is that we as employees may be asked by patients what it's all about, and we should be knowledgable.

But first, we got to sound off on the program as a whole, and my fellow employees did not let me down. No myrmidons we, many negative opinions were expressed. I spoke about how the complexity of the program was a direct result of our lobbying against any kind of single payer system, while others worried about the liability of Medicare, especially after I pointed out that it will be insolvent far sooner than Social Security. The Public Affairs guys and gals in the back of the room took notes. I don't know if they were expecting this.

I have not missed an opportunity to say something about Part D whenever I could, and truthfully, I've never felt uncomfortable expressing anti-industry opinions in forums such as this. My company has one of the lowest rates of employee contribution to PACs in the industry, so I like to think that there's a lot of independent thinking going on here.

Still I remain vigilant. I've heard people complain about Medicare Part D in terms of its complexity - it's usually something like "God---ned government can't do anything right. Why do they make my mother/father/relative shop around for these ridiculous cards?" I don't hesitate (and neither should you, loyal reader(s)) to enlighten that person. It was us. We caused it to be like that. Without those cards, without the shopping around, without the explicit prohibition of government price setting like the Veterans Administration has, the program would not exist. We simply wouldn't allow it. After all, you are only citizens, and we write your laws for you.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Constant Gardener

I am pleased to announce that I have just finshed John Le Carre's novel The Constant Gardener, just in time for the film's release next Wednesday. Fortunately, it's supposed to be a "wide release," meaning that it should come to my local multiplex, so I don't have to go to the Big City to see it. Don't get me wrong - I love the Big City, but when you're paying a babysitter $10/hour, you don't want to spend two of those hours driving to and from your destination.

I'm not sure how the book escaped my attention before now, since I have a growing library of anti-Pharma tomes. But I enjoyed it much more than Kakutani did. But whenever a reviewer complains that a book "devolves into an altogether conventional thriller" one should remember that the reviewer reads these things for a living. I don't, so the "conventional" part simply didn't apply. I reserve that sort of criticism for my Ebert moments, where I'm on surer footing.

The Author's Note at the end makes Le Carre's contempt for Pharma clear. He urges the reader to investigate a German outfit called BUKO Pharma-Kampagne, which is an independently financed Pharma watchdog group. Not in the Public Interest vein, but rather focused on the perfidy of Pharma's dealings in the developing world. Read about them here.