The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by J.C. Nossiter
The Morning Mendacity
Wednesday, August 11th, 2004
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
President George W. Bush seems to be a healthy physical specimen.  He takes care of himself, gets plenty of sleep and exercise, and watches his diet, sensible things we can all do to stay well.  But Mr. Bush also enjoys a benefit denied to over forty million of his fellow citizens:  comprehensive health insurance.  Mr. Bush blames soaring medical costs for the difficulty the rest of us have in getting health insurance.  And why is medicine getting more expensive? “…these junk and frivolous lawsuits” insists Mr. Bush.  Stifle malpractice suits and medical costs will come down faster than a roped steer.

FactCheck.org begs to differ.  The nonpartisan nonprofit at the U. of Pennsylvania says President Bush bases his case on a 1996 Stanford study purporting to measure the cost of so-called defensive medicine – medicine practiced to avoid suits.  The study’s methodology and conclusions are rejected by both the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office, but Mr. Bush would hardly let a fact like that get in the way of a faith-based policy.  And did I mention that one of the study’s authors now runs the FDA?

That’s quite a coincidence, given that Americans spent $200 billion dollars on prescription drugs last year, that drug prices are rising at a rate of 12% a year, and that they are the “fastest growing part of the health care bill.” So writes Marcia Angell, M.D., in an essay in the indispensable N.Y. Review of Books (nybooks.com).  Dr. Angell paints a pretty picture of the pharmaceutical industry:  obscenely profitable companies spending vast sums on the marketing of  “new” drugs identical to older ones whose patents have expired, sold at stratospheric prices that put enormous fortunes into the pockets of big pharma executives.  Little goes to R&D (to say nothing of shareholders), and most genuinely new drugs flow from taxpayer funded research at the NIH.  Those hurt most by big pharma’s greedy oligopoly:  the elderly.

So given all that, the last way to tackle rising health care costs is a hugely costly government prescription drug program for the elderly that forbids
by law negotiating lower prices with big pharma.  That, however, is precisely Mr. Bush’s prescription.  Were he Dr. Bush, we’d be suing for malpractice.

The Afternoon Affront

KQED FM San Francisco’s Forum program on Tuesday had The Economist’s Washington correspondent insisting that there were few real policy differences between President Bush and Senator Kerry.  Here’s one overlooked by The Economist’s Mr. Wooldridge:  Senator Kerry wants to make available to all Americans the same health insurance program enjoyed by Federal employees like himself -- and President Bush.
©J.C. Nossiter 2004
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