Life Extension Magazine August 2007
As We See It
The Harsh Costs of Citizen Apathy
By William Faloon
When Life Extension first exposed the incestuous relationship between the medical establishment and the federal government, the media did not believe us. In fact, newscasters often turned our crusade against government corruption into attacks against us for suggesting more efficient ways to prevent and treat disease.
Oh, how times have changed! Prescription drug costs are now senior citizens’ leading concern, medical insurance premiums/co-pays have skyrocketed, corporate health care plans face insolvency, and Medicare has just reported that its trust fund will be empty within twelve years.1
Medicare trustees propose to increase the Medicare tax from 2.9% to 6.45% on all wages to keep this program from going bust.2 Despite the sharply increased Medicare taxes citizens now pay, the funding shortfall keeps getting worse.1
Life Extension long ago warned that it would be impossible, no matter how many additional tax dollars were layered on, for the government to fund a politicized healthcare system riddled with ineptitude and fraud.
Corrupt Healthcare Legislation
Three years ago, Life Extension fought a brutal battle in an attempt to prevent the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill from passing in Congress. This 1000-page bill, written by pharmaceutical lobbyists, provided $400 billion of taxpayer subsidies over the next ten years for the purchase of prescription drugs at full retail prices.3-5
Just imagine if you owned a business (like a pharmaceutical company) where you sold a product for over $100 that cost you less than $3 to make. You are protected against competition by federal agencies that destroy those who make less expensive options (like alternative therapies) available. Your only problem is that not enough people can afford your overpriced product.
Most industries respond to these kinds of issues by initiating more efficient business practices and cutting prices. What if instead of lowering prices, you influenced the federal government to use tax dollars to buy your overpriced product? That’s exactly what the pharmaceutical industry accomplished when they snuck through the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, with more drug lobbyists in the halls of Congress that night than elected officials.
Here is an excerpt from what was reported by CBS News’s 60 Minutes about this bill:
“If you have ever wondered why the costs of prescription drugs in the United States are the highest in the world or why it’s illegal to import cheaper drugs from Canada or Mexico, you need look no further than the pharmaceutical lobby and its influence in Washington, DC. According to a new report by the Center for Public Integrity, congressmen are outnumbered two to one by lobbyists for an industry that spends roughly a $100 million a year in campaign contributions and lobbying expenses to protect its profits.”6,7
The Medicare Prescription Drug Act prohibits Medicare from using its enormous purchasing power to negotiate lower prices. This means that taxpayers are stuck with the tab of paying around 60% more than government agencies like the Veteran’s Administration, who are allowed to negotiate drug price discounts.
How the Drug Lobby Works
The insidious way the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill was passed provides an intriguing window into how pharmaceutical influence causes Americans to overpay for prescription drugs and then plunders tax dollars to subsidize certain citizens who cannot afford the artificially-inflated prices. The money needed to pay for the overpriced drugs will likely come from a sharp increase in the Medicare tax that will be forced on all income-earning citizens.
The Medicare Prescription Drug Bill passed at 3:00 am, long after most people in Washington had gone to sleep. Most members of Congress initially refused to vote for the bill, arguing it was too expensive and provided a windfall to the drug companies. The drug lobbyists went into overdrive, going as far as to threaten to support opposing candidates in future elections if certain members of Congress did not vote for the bill.7,8
Despite no surplus federal revenue available to pay for the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, pharmaceutical lobbying prevailed over ethical consciousness as Congress narrowly enacted this bill.
To add insult to injury, within two weeks of the bills passing, Medicare released data showing that the true projected cost of the bill would be $534 billion, instead of the $395 billion Congress was misled into believing.6,9 In sworn testimony before Congress, it was revealed that this $534 billion cost projection was intentionally withheld from Congress on orders from a Medicare official who went to work for a high-powered Washington, DC lobbying firm ten days after the bill was signed into law.6
Outsiders who helped push the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill through included many former members of Congress who were registered as lobbyists for the drug industry. Pharmaceutical companies have long been known to reward former members of Congress with lucrative employment contracts.7
In fact, the Congressman most responsible for pushing the bill through retired to a $2 million a year job as president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.6 Fourteen other congressional staffers, congressmen, and federal officials also went to work for the pharmaceutical industry after the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill was passed—a bill that pours hundreds of billions of dollars into drug company coffers at taxpayers’ expense.6
High Price of Citizen Apathy
The squalid facts behind passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill leave no doubt as to how much power the drug industry wields over the individual. While consumer groups like Life Extension tried to defeat this crooked legislation, the sad fact is that too many members of Congress betrayed their constituency and capitulated to the drug lobbyists.
The Medicare Prescription Drug Bill was enacted because the American citizenry remained oblivious to this conspiracy to pillage tax dollars and funnel hundreds of billions of additional profits to the pharmaceutical industry.
In a market free of government regulation, drug prices would collapse in response to competitive pressures. Instead, prescription drug prices remain excruciatingly high. When faced with the prospect of having to lower their prices, the pharmaceutical industry instead perpetrated this scheme that forces virtually every American to subsidize their egregiously overpriced drugs.
If only a small fraction of the American public had voiced their outrage to Congress, the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill would not have passed. Now that we know the realities of what this and other shady Medicare programs are really going to cost, each taxpayer faces the prospect of paying thousands of additional Medicare tax dollars every single year.
If Medicare taxes are increased to the proposed rate of 6.45%, a person earning $50,000 will pay $1,775 in additional Medicare tax each year. A person earning $175,000 will pay an additional $6,212 in Medicare tax each year.
The Medicare Prescription Drug program is only part of the Medicare insolvency quandary, but it provides a stark example of how citizens suffer enormously when choosing apathy over political activism.
Fighting Back Against the Establishment
With drug money permeating every level of government, medical advances are stifled as the economic whims of entrenched pharmaceutical giants supersede scientific logic. At any given time, legislation circulates in Congress that would provide even greater monopolistic power to the pharmaceutical industry, while seeking to eradicate those who offer safer and less expensive alternatives to expensive prescription drugs.
The Life Extension Foundation wages a full time battle to counteract the repression of knowledge instituted by pharmaceutical interests. If you take, or are contemplating taking a “statin” drug like Lipitor®, the expose article in this month’s issue of Life Extension magazine is a must-read. Unlike the hyped-up TV commercials you see for these cholesterol-lowering medications, we reveal the scientific facts as to who should take these drugs, how to individually optimize the dose to protect against side effects, and how one can drastically lower the cost.
Just recently, the Life Extension Pharmacy was established for the purpose of tearing down high drug prices and helping protect members against lethal drug side effects. If you had trouble getting through to our new pharmacy, it was because we were overwhelmed with calls from members who wanted to support our campaign against Big Pharma.
By transferring your prescription medications to the Life Extension Pharmacy, you help remove the shackles of apathy that have enabled pharmaceutical lobbyists to suffocate and corrupt America’s healthcare system.
To find out how the Life Extension Pharmacy can help save you money and possibly your life, call 1-877-877-9700
For longer life,
1. Available at: http://mwhodges.home.att.net/soc_sec-a.htm. Accessed May 21, 2007.
2. Available at: http://money.cnn.com/2007/04/23/pf/ssmc_trustees_report/index.htm. Accessed May 21, 2007.
3. Available at: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2004/aug2004_itn_03.htm. Accessed May 21, 2007.
4. Available at: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2004/apr2004_awsi_01.htm. Accessed May 21, 2007.
5. Available at: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2004/mar2004_awsi_death_06.htm. Accessed May 21, 2007.
6. Available at: www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/03/29/60minutes/main2625305.shtml. Accessed May 21, 2007.
7. Available at: http://www.publicintegrity.org/hiredguns/. Accessed May 21, 2007.
8. Available at: http://www.citizen.org/congress/reform/rx_benefits/drug_benefit/. Accessed May 21, 2007.
9. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/medicare_03-17-04.html. Accessed May 21, 2007.