May 08, 2004

Drug Reimportation Caution

Mort Kondrake's column on drug reimportation is a gem in general but one bit deserves extra amplification:

A recent Congressional Budget Office study found that importing drugs might not save consumers much money, especially if demand from the United States causes prices to rise in Canada and European countries, if those countries limit exports or if drug companies limit supply to those countries. Meanwhile, drug discount cards exist - but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others, as part of a general effort to discredit the Medicare law, are urging seniors not to acquire them.

John Rother, national policy director of AARP, told me that the Democrats "have gone off the extreme end. The cards give poor seniors a $600 credit on their cards, giving them drugs almost for free. You'd think Democrats would want to help this constituency."

Rother said that while there "are problems" getting the discount card system started, seniors should be able to get a 30 percent discount, "which is almost what they'll save by going to Canada."

Drug reimportation savings were always a chimera. Price controls were always about cost shifting some of the local fair share to non-controlled states, not cost reduction overall for the development, education, and distribution of pharmaceuticals. But to have politicians try to convince seniors in need of relief that they shouldn't get it in order to score a political point is just reprehensible.

The headlines should be blaring, "Democrats to Seniors, Pay More For Now" and "Conning Granny on Drugs" but they aren't and likely won't be. As seniors figure out that they're being fooled, the traditional Democrat advantage in this age group is likely to erode. That won't change much this election but the Democrat party is eating its seed corn and unraveling its coalition over the long haul. That's got to hurt.

Posted by TMLutas at May 8, 2004 09:16 AM