Hen's teeth

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. - Philip K. Dick

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Senator Shelby's office admits Medicare is Better

I called Senator Shelby's office to find out if he could help me with a paperwork or administration problem with Medicare. The person answering the phone told me to write a letter & they would see what they could do.

I asked if the senator could help me if the problem was with Blue Cross. The answer was no. I asked who could help me, and was told that the insurance commission will investigate any illegal activity. I reminded her that my problem was lost paperwork, nothing illegal about that.

Then I informed her that she had just told me that Medicare was better than private insurance.

"[Stutter] [Stutter] no it isn't"

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Friday, October 23, 2009

The Real Story of A Generic Drug

We are continually being told that we can save money if we switch to generic drugs, as if this is a great new idea. I don't know of anyone who doesn't use generic prescription drugs. If they exist, that is.

This is the story of a drug manufacturer, its favorite cash cow, and what happened when the patent ran out.

Cephalon, Inc makes Provigil. It's used for nacolepsy and fatigue. Cephalon has made a lot of money with it, but the patent was due to expire in 2005. Various generic manufacturers filed applications with the FDA to manufacture and market the drug in 2002. In 2003, Cephalon filed patent infringement lawsuits against each of the generic companies. This gave the generic companies a long and expensive fight for the right to manufacture a generic version of Provigil.

Cephalon had a better solution for them. Cephalon paid them to not market any generic drugs until 2011 or 2012. Case settled. And they make lots of money to do nothing.

This was a little expensive for Cephalon, but they had a solution for that too. First they jacked the price of Provigil way up. Then they made a few minor tweaks to Provigil, and changed the name to Nuvigil. This gave them a brand new patent that will last till 2023.



Cephalon also plans to have a larger customer base for Nuvigil. They are marketing it for Eastbound jet lag. Some very lucky drug study subjects got an all expenses paid vacation to France in order to show its effectiveness.

This created a lot of fun and games for the drug manufacturers, but what about the poor health insurance companies that have to pay for it? No problems there either.

I have chronic fatigue. I've been taking Provigil for a couple of years. A few months ago, when I went to pick up a refill, the lady at the pharmacy gave me a chipper "That'll be $379.43." Blue Cross changed the rules and didn't bother to tell me, or my doctor. A sleep study is now required before they can approve Provigil.

That's nice, but what am I supposed to do in the mean time. Not even the greatest health care system in the world can get you a sleep study & diagnosis in a day.

My doctor tried to get me an extension, but Blue Cross wasn't interested in any little problems their rule change might have created.

Next I got my exployer's HR department to talk to Blue Cross. That worked. I got an extension. It's no longer "preferred", and will cost me $50, but that's better than $400. Unfortunately, Blue Cross departments don't talk to each other. I've been round and round with my doctor and the pharmacy. They can't convince Blue Cross, that Blue Cross has given me an extension.

So, I'm stuck without a medicine that I need. I'm always sleepy, and have trouble getting anything done during the day. And I have to deal with this mess.

What's really great about this ordeal that Blue Cross put me through, is that it never would have happened if I was on Medicare. The Blue Cross formulary for Medicare lists Provigil as "preferred". No sleep study required.

Why can't I buy into Medicare, if I want to?

Update: I've had the sleep study. The sleep doctor gave me a new prescription with special approval. Blue Cross can't find the approval.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Jo Bonner(R-AL) Will Ask The CBO to Score Single Payer

At least he said he would.

I was at Representative Jo Bonner's town hall meeting in Tillman's Corner, Alabama. My question to Rep. Bonner was:

I would like to start my own business, but I am over 40 & under 65. I can't get affordable health insurance unless I work for a large corporation. Why can't I buy into Medicare?

A single payer, Medicare for All, health plan was taken off the table before the discussion was started, even though a majority of Americans, and a majority of doctors are in favor of it. [shouts from hecklers in the back of the room, so I had to raise my voice here.] My question is, Will you ask the CBO to rate it in comparison to the other proposals so that all of the various proposals can be evaluated objectively?
Jo first told the hecklers to behave themselves, and that I had a valid question.

He then said a lot of words about how great Medicare is, but gave no indication of how it might be expanded to people under 65.

Next, Jo talked about how the Republicans have no power in Washington, because they are in the minority. I told him that he could shame the Democrats into joining his request to score Single Payer.

Then he rambled on about various plans that the CBO has scored, implying that Single Payer was one of them. I repeated that HR676 had not been scored.

Then he mumbled something about trying to request it. So I thanked him, and told him that I looked forward to seeing the report.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Will Eucalyptus Be The New Kudzu?

Kudzu was imported to the Southeastern US to reduce soil erosion. It is now an invasive pest. The vine will quickly engulf trees, bushes, telephone poles, and people. (Just kidding about the people, but it does grow quickly.)

In 2005, ArborGen planted genetically engineered, cold tolerant Eucalyptus trees in Baldwin County, Alabama. The exact location has been kept secret. They are now asking the USDA for permission to expand the test to 29 field trials, with over 260,000 trees.

260,000 trees is not a field trial. These are experimental forests hiding behind field trial loopholes. Genetic Eucalyptus Trees Threaten Southern U.S.

According to the above referenced article from "Toward Freedom",

"Eucalyptus are internationally known for their devastating impacts--from invasiveness to wildfires to their ability to worsen droughts. Massive wildfires in Australia earlier this year were fueled by eucalyptus, which contains a highly volatile oil. These wildfires moved at 100 km/hr and killed 173 people, who literally did not have time to escape. Additionally, eucalyptus grandis, one of the species in the GE eucalyptus hybrid, is also a known host to Cryptococcus gattii, a fungus that can cause fatal fungal meningitis in people and animals that inhale its spores. C. gattii was recently found in the U.S."
The following quotes are from Permit applications 08-011-116rm and 08-014-101rm received from ArborGen LLC Field testing of genetically engineered Eucalyptus grandis X Eucalyptus urophylla Draft Environmental Assessment May 08, 2009. A copy can be found at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2008-0059

"the species of Eucalyptus used to produce this hybrid are not considered weedy or invasive in the U.S. None of the genes introduced into Eucalyptus code for traits that would be expected to make the plants more weedy or invasive. The genes introduced to affect cold tolerance could make the engineered Eucalyptus more adapted to cold temperatures in the southern United States, but this trait in and of itself would not impart invasive or weediness characteristics to the
engineered plants."

In other words, Eucalyptus is not considered a weed because it hasn't become invasive yet. If it should be come invasive, it would be considered a weed, but since the field test would already be underway, we won't be able to do anything about it. Also, making Eucalyptus more cold hardy can't possibly make it more likely to spread.

"preventing flower formation would prove impossible over time"

Arborgen admits that they will create flowers. Their descriptions of the 29 field sites show that both engineered and non-engineered Eucalyptus are currently being grown nearby. But don't worry about that, because Eucalyptus seedlings aren't very tough.

"There are other species of cold-hardy Eucalyptus that can possibly be grown in the Southeast U.S.These species include E. neglecta, E. niphophila, E. pauciflora, E. camphora, E. nova-anglica, E.macarthurii, E. gunnii and E. cinerea. These could occur in the States where these field test occur. Among these species, E. cinerea, also known as the silver dollar tree or Argyle Apple, is the most popular species grown for its ornamental foliage. "

So why do we need a bio-engineered tree?

Petitions can be found at http://ga3.org/campaign/GEtrees/xn873s54hjx563dt? and http://globaljusticeecology.org/petition.php.

Comments close Monday, July 6, 2009, 5pm Eastern

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Congress has socialized medicine. Why can't I?

socialized medicine - a medical system where the government pays for & regulates medical care.

As federal employees, all senators & representatives have subsidized health care insurance managed by the federal government. What a bunch of hypocrites. If socialized medicine is the disaster they claim it to be, they should all be getting health care on the open market. I wonder how many of them would even get accepted for private coverage.

As an absolute minimum for health care reform, I want access to the same plans as my employees in Washington. I want it at the same subsidized price. And I want it no matter what my current health condition is.

Senator Max Baucus is in charge of coming up with the health care reform legislation. He recently stated that all options are on the table, except single payer. Why is an option supported by most people, as well as most doctors, not allowed to be discussed? Is the open market system afraid to compete with a public system?

Single payer advocates tried to get a seat at the table last week. When they tried to ask Baucus why they weren't allowed to speak, he had them removed & arrested. In fact, Baucus made a joke about running out of police. The room full of senators & health insurance executives had a great chuckle over denying citizens the right to speak.

The US is the only industrialized country in the world that allows its citizens to go bankrupt due to medical costs.

In Obama's web town hall meeting, he said that we have to keep our employer based health coverage because that's what we are used to. Is that the best argument he has? I'm used to being underpaid, but that doesn't mean that I don't want to change it.

Various politicians are quick to reassure us that anyone happy with their health care insurance can keep it. Well, the only people who are happy with their current health care insurance, are the people who haven't tried to use it.

I'd like to know what this "choice" in heath care is supposed to mean;

  • Do I get to choose between good coverage & bad coverage?

  • Do I get to choose between cancer coverage & heart attack coverage?

  • Do I get to choose between low premiums but you go bankrupt if you get sick, & high premiums, but you get care if you get sick?

  • Do I get to choose between having vision/dental coverage & not having vision/dental coverage?

I already have those choices. I want to know that I will get health care even if I lose my job.

Speaking of jobs, our current health care system is a form of serfdom. You can't get health insurance unless you work for a large corporation. I don't have the choice of working for a small company because I won't have access to affordable health care. I don't have the choice of starting my own business because I would never be accepted for private health care insurance.

There is an option that will both lower costs & improve health care coverage, HR-676. Here's a few points from Physicians for a National Health Program http://www.pnhp.org/.

  • The potential savings on paperwork, more than $350 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do.

  • Under a single-payer system, all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sick people expected to pay for Bailout

After years of greed, corruption, deregulation, & crime, Wall Street has managed to destroy the world's economy. So what is Bush/Obama's plan to fix it?

  • More money to Wall Street.
  • Hazy promises of future regulation.
  • Remove executive compensation limits from legislation.
  • More money to Wall Street.
  • Remove whistle blower protections for federal employees from legislation.
  • Make one CEO resign, as long as it isn't a Wall Street CEO.
  • More money to Wall Street.
  • Ask union workers to take a pay cut.
  • Keep paying Wall Street because we will be lost without their blessed presence.
  • More money to Wall Street.
  • Expect auto retirees to take worthless stock to pay for their health care.

But Single Payer Universal Health Care is off the table. We aren't going to do anything about spiraling health care costs until we eliminate the 30% overhead that health insurance companies cost us. Obama refuses to even allow an objective study of the costs/benefits of single payer. Let single payer stand or fall on its own merit.

Even with "good" health insurance, it is possible to go bankrupt due to the deductibles & copays.

Obama talks about shared sacrifice. But then he expects retirees struggling to pay for health expenses to finance Wall Street's bailout.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Fix the Deficit with Senate Confirmation Hearings

The Confirmation Hearings for Geitner & Daschle have highlighted a problem that is not mentioned very often. Rich people can get away with not paying taxes because the IRS does not have the funding to do thorough audits. When nominated for high government office, they suddenly remember the taxes they should have paid.

Unfortunately, an extra hundred thousand dollars here and there doesn't really make much of a dent in our deficit. So I had another thought.

Corporations are people. We could get billions of dollars in back taxes with the right nominations. I'll start the list;

Exxon - Energy Secretary
Microsoft - Commerce Secretary
Halliburton - Defense Secretary