”Trigger’ in any health reform will play out as a farce

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 1, 2009

I don’t believe that a ‘trigger’ being suggested to control health care costs would work.

I hold this belief based on what happened with the 2003 Medicare Part D trigger. It never worked as promised, a mechanism to bring down prescription costs for seniors. Through that legislation, the drug companies  arranged that they wouldn’t have to negotiate with the federal government on Medicare prescription drug prices, as they must do with other programs such as the Veterans Health Administration. The result, as all seniors know, they could and did charge taxpayers whatever they wanted.

The ‘trigger’ program still did not help a huge minority of the senior population deal with drug costs due to the of the massive “doughnut hole” problem. Millions of seniors are currently caught in this “ doughnut hole,” where thousands of dollars in annual prescription drug costs must come directly from their individual pocketbooks or they go without the often life-saving medications.

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That legislation had a “trigger” which was supposed to protect consumers and taxpayers against huge cost increases in the program. If the bills became too large, a “public option” would kick in and tell big drug manufacturers to cut back their profits. For some (very profitable reason), that threshold has not yet been reached.

So big drug manufacturers got a big windfall (an unbelievable $3.7 billion) in the first two years alone) from Medicare Part D. I see that is what happens when lobbyists (for the industry you’re trying to reform) write the legislation that is supposed to make them reform their ways of doing business.

The same thing will happen with the lie of a ‘trigger’ to stop huge windfalls of profit for the hospitals and drug companies now in the effort to reform our health care system. Do not let them fool us all again.

Leah Johnson