The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

GOP love is like bad medicine.

I've made no bones about the fact that I didn't vote for Bush in 2004. No, I didn't think that Kerry was "better," but I did believe that the creeping socialism that we've come to expect from Democrat administrations was moving like kudzu in the summer during GWB Term I. Sorry, but I will not support bad policies just because they are "less bad" than the other side's.

Now it appears that Bush can't even claim "less badness." Recently, the Center for Medical Progress ("CMP") released a study on the gem in Bush's policy tiara, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act ("MMA"). From the get-go, Conservatives were shouting to the rafters that the MMA was a first order governmental boondoggle and a political bribe to the wrinkles and cansata set. Yet despite that fact that the U.S. was pouring billions into nation building in Iraq, Bush still signed off on this deficit fertilizer. Why??? Because he's a Compassionate Conservative, of course, and I'm a heartless bastard who wants to force the elderly to eat dog food because they can't afford real food and Viagra. I'm just kidding, Bob Dole was eating dog food long before the MMA.

What really bastes my Butterball, however, is that Republicans have become impossible to move on this issue. Maybe it's because the word "Medicare" causes eyes to glaze; maybe it's because everyone wants Grandma to be able to afford her Codeine. "Sure," they say, "this is going to cause the deficit to rise, but it's worth it." It's as if most people think we can legislate ourselves healthy.

The problem with the focus on the MMA is that it measures costs and benefits in terms of tax dollar spent and access to drugs gained. It doesn't recognize the hidden costs that come from tampering with the free market. I know, I know. Here I go again about the sanctity of the Market, and laissez faire, and I'll probably mention the invisible hand. I won't. Much.

What CMP has done is to try to put a number to the hidden costs of the MMA. What they've hypothesized is worse than even I imagined. Their method was fairly simple, they used past drug price controls to determine the market effect of increased Government purchasing on drug company research and development. The theory is that as the Federal Government jumps into the market, it is able to use its God-like leverage to squeeze drug companies until they pop. As a result, the drug companies begin cutting prices and profit, which leads to a drop in the amount they spend on R&D, which equals fewer advances in health care. Here's your money quote:
Applying this same analysis to the future, we predict that the increased government influence on drug purchases under the MMA will dramatically reduce both real drug prices and R&D spending. We estimate that real drug prices will decline by 67.5 percent (or about 49 percent lower than pre-MMA levels) if purchases under the MMA are treated in the same manner as drug purchases under Medicaid and the VA have been treated historically. We further estimate that this decline will reduce R&D spending by 39.4 percent, or $372 billion over the lifetime of the act. This translates into a reduction of 277 million life years.
Yep. There's the hidden cost: 277 million life years. As a country, we are now approaching the 300 million population mark, which, for those of you playing at home, means that, over time, we're averaging one year lost per person. So, do you think cheaper drugs are worth a year of your life?* I didn't think so. Thank you, Mr. President.

*Before there's a bunch of yelping, let me admit the following:
1. Yes, the study is not perfect, but it is well researched and relies on the proper assumptions.
2. Yes, I realize that the MMA will not lead to every person losing a year off their lives. It is spread among the population. However, it shouldn't change your cost/benefit analysis.
Centinel 4:46 PM #


Post a Comment