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China’s New Generic Drugs Law: News You Ain’t Supposed to Know

1:24 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

No mainstream U.S. ‘news’ site has published the news below (as far as I can tell from Google News searching ‘china’ ‘generic’ and ‘drugs’), but good for the Chinese! How can its government pass this law, one our corporate masters are so afraid of they don’t want us to know about it? China has a responsive and populist government on health care, the opposite of what we get with our elections here in the U.S. So, if we adopted China’s dictatorship form of government would our health care be run in the public interest? ;->

China changes patent law in fight for cheaper drugs

Tan Ee Lyn, Reuters, June 9, 2012, 12:59 am

China’s drug-law revamp rattles Big Pharma

By Tan Ee Lyn, Reuters, June 9, 2012

China to license copies of patented medicines

New law allows companies to produce generic versions during emergencies, unusual circumstances, or in public interest.

Last Modified: 09 Jun 2012 05:22

UPDATE: I did an expanded re-run of that Google news search and found CNBC and MSN Money reprints of Tan Ee Lyn’s Reuters piece. As ThingsComeUndone notes below, this news should have a major impact on Big Pharma stock prices, and it’s the main duty of the financial press to keep its investor readers informed on such things.

Digby: Obama Health Care Goal NOT Yours!

4:36 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

What’s the deal with Digby? First she discusses her shock that the real long-range Obama health care plan — if Ezra Klein is a good guide — is to convert Medicare and Medicaid into ‘premium support’ programs, which is what Obamacare is. For the record, here’s the Klein she is reacting to:

So Bachmann is perhaps right to say that the president is moving us towards a day when ObamaCare — or, to put it more neutrally, “premium support” — might come to Medicare. He’s seeing whether it works in the private health-care market first and, if it does, there’s little doubt that the political pressure to extend it to other groups will be intense.

(The new ‘support’ won’t cover close to all of geezers’ health care costs, but that’s why they should’ve been saving their asses off their entire adult lives: they should’ve known the uni-party would eventually ditch Medicare.)

Despite that hard slap in the face of ‘authentic Obama’, note the end of Digby’s second sentence below (emphasis added):

But the reason liberals were so wedded to the public option was because it, at least, created an obvious path and useful alternative to actual humans once the insurance companies started their inevitable gouging and manipulations. Regulating is hard, and the resistance from our monied class will always be huge so it is going to take decades longer to implement and get the results from this plan than if they’d simply expanded the existing national plan to everyone. There was a better way.

Digs, get it through your fearful, conventional, wanna-stay-friends-with-Obama-operatives head that Obamacare was/is NOT some sort of very convoluted indecipherable path to the progressive destination that we all ‘just know’ Obama wants to get to. He’s going somewhere else! And that is a very Hoover/Reagan Republican, unprogressive place. You just recognized that two paragraphs earlier yourself when you blasted Klein/Obama’s path toward the privatization/trashing of Medicaid & Medicare.

Progressives had “a better way” to the ‘health care at reasonable cost for all Americans’ goal, so that’s ALSO Obama’s goal? What a crazy thing to say! After the deficit hawking, big bank servicing, warmongering, anti-unionism, Patriot renewing, Bradley Manning, yada yada, WAKE UP! It’s mid-2011 fCs: he’s not Kennedy (or wtf) but, like Ezra Klein sez, The Greatest Republican President Ever.

Just a final side note: Is Digby the best real progressives can do in 2011-2012? Can you imagine her in next year’s election year? Just asking.

[This post was originally a comment at pfuggeecamp.]

President George Costanza, sleeping under the desk

12:30 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Seinfeldian presidency

Nothing’s happened so far except schlepping along with whatever was happening before. Maybe he’s sleeping under that big Presidential desk, the way George did.

by: fairleft @ Thu Jan 21, 2010 at 10:57:00 AM EST

BARACK: Rahm, look at my eyes.

RAHM: A little less beady today.

BARACK: Because I’m REFRESHED. I finally found a way to sleep in my office. Under the desk. I lie on my back. I tuck in the chair. I’m invisible.

RAHM: Sounds like a really cool fort.

Heard Howard Dean on Air America radio this morning, Bill Press Show I think, all coffee-ed-up and raring to tell Congress what we need to do now: make two bills, one that lowers Medicaid age [correction: Medicare age] to 55 and have it come into effect before 2010 elections, the other just the good little stuff, like no pre-existing conditions, of the present elephantine bills. And then force the Repubs to vote against no pre-existing conditions and take that into the fall elections!

And and and then . . . the Dems will smash the idiotic Republicans, cuz 55 to 64 will discover there really ISN’T a death panel, and the Medicaid [correction: Medicare] rates are reasonable, and the Repubs will be tagged as the "we like pre-existing conditions" health insurance crowd. And the American public will rally to the Democrats! We’ll be the party that fucking f-i-n-a-l-l-y, on a major battleground, sticks its finger in the eye of Mr. Corpy Moneybucks!

But, r-e-l-a-x, get off the caffeine jag, wish it were so but we don’t have a health care President Howard Dean. We got the presidency where nothing happens, except unobtrusively schlepping along with the stuff the last guy was doing.

Obama (and the rest of the Seinfeld crew: Pelosi, Reed, and so on) will move just a bit more to the right, a bit more sold out to the unhealthy borg, and do absolutely nothing resembling what Howard Dean recommends. Instead, with a few more li’l tweaks here and there, American health care will be just as screw us and highly profitable as it’s always been. Making it otherwise would take too much political and financial capital, too much energy, too much risk, too many noses out of joint; the nail that sticks up gets hammered down ya know!

Axing CHIP: Big Pwogs’ Conspiracy of Silence

11:40 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

It is frankly disgusting but perhaps not surprising that not one major pwoggie blue blog is even covering this story, the fact the House health bill axes CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. I’m not even talking about giving it major play, the big blogs are fucking disappearing this story. I’ve just visited Dailykos and TalkingPointsMemo, MYDD (other than my two non-front-paged articles (where you can inform yourself further on the issue’s complexities)), nothing. Firedoglake, nothing. Found nothing at huffpost’s admittedly vast site. Firedoglake’s Daily Health Care News – 11/6/09, 11/5/09, nothing. This for a program that was used aggressively in 2007 and 2008 to hammer President Bush for his heartlessness? How soon we ‘forget’ or change our priorities depending on Democratic Party uber alles?

The only place discussing the House Bill’s repeal of CHIP is the Washington Independent, where Mike Lillis has another insightful piece today. It is a reasonably balanced piece, and no one is denying this is a complex issue. But we should discuss the death of CHIP, not silence any discussion. Right? Here’s a piece of the article, but you really should read the whole thing:

The $894 billion health reform bill working its way toward a House vote this week would repeal the Children’s Health Insurance Program, shifting some low-income kids into Medicaid and others into private plans that would both cost more and guarantee fewer benefits. Which program the youngsters tumble into hinges, not on need, but on the state where they live – a design some advocates call “the lottery of geography.”

“Much of the House bill is good, but on CHIP they only did half a loaf,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a children’s health advocacy group. . . .

The House bill . . . expands Medicaid eligibility to 150 percent of poverty and shifts all kids living above that level to private plans contained on a proposed insurance marketplace, or exchange, the proposal also carves out an exception in states which augmented Medicaid in lieu of creating a separate CHIP program. In those cases, the youngsters would remain in Medicaid.

The distinction carries both coverage and cost implications. Under current law, all state Medicaid programs are required to offer a blanket system of preventative care known as the early periodic screening, diagnosis and treatment program, or EPSDT. The exchange plans, on the other hand, don’t have the same mandate. (Although states with stand-alone CHIP programs are not bound to cover EPSDT services, some of them do.) . . .

And because states have vastly different income-eligibility levels for Medicaid and CHIP, the House bill offers no guarantee that the most vulnerable kids would receive the most robust benefits. In New Jersey, for example, Medicaid covers youngsters up to 200 percent of poverty, at which point CHIP takes over and covers kids up to 350 percent. Minnesota, by contrast, covers kids up to 275 percent of poverty under Medicaid but has no stand-alone CHIP plan.

The result? Children living at 275 percent of poverty in Minnesota would, under the House bill, still pay almost nothing for care under Medicaid — including EPSDT coverage — while families living at the same income level in New Jersey will be responsible for 22 percent of the cost of their exchange plans, without the assurance of EPSDT services. . . .

. . . there are more New Jerseys out there than Minnesotas. Currently, about 5.3 million (or 72 percent) of the 7.4 million CHIP kids live in states with stand-alone CHIP programs, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Please note that Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund have come out strongly against the death of CHIP (instead supporting an alternative bill that would make it consistently cover every child in families up to 300% of poverty):

“They’re going to be paying a lot more out of their pockets and getting fewer benefits,” warned Alison Buist, director of child health at the Children’s Defense Fund.

CHIP is not being killed out of ignorance about what that will do. The concerns of Edelman have been reflected in the House debate, and rejected:

Some House lawmakers recognize the potential problems. During the markup of health reform legislation in the Education and Labor Committee, for example, lawmakers passed an amendment — offered by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) — requiring that all exchange plans offer EPSDT services. That proposal, however, was stripped out in the final bill.

Another amendment, offered by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Col.), would have prevented the shift from CHIP to private plans unless the White House provided certification that the private plans offered comparable benefits. That proposal passed the Energy and Commerce Committee, but was also removed in the final bill.

DeGette’s office said earlier this week that the certification language was removed “to reflect some budgetary constraints.”

Finally, yes, Senator Jay Rockefeller may ride to the rescue. Or, he may not, how do we ‘know’ he will when real progressives aren’t being kept informed, when no one even knows what’s going on?

In the Senate, members of the Finance Committee last month passed an amendment to reauthorize CHIP through 2019. The sponsor of that amendment, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), is already vowing to fight for that provision all the way to the White House.

“We need to make sure children can keep their CHIP coverage and not be forced into untested private coverage,” Rockefeller said in a statement this week. “Health care reform should improve the coverage children have — not take their coverage away.”

As I said yesterday,

The cost of providing CHIP to all families up to 300% of poverty level would be $11 billion a year over ten years. Anyway, like the Washington Independent writer says, "Get out the popcorn. This saga is just getting started." Hey, do more than watch. Contact Senator Rockefeller and tell him you’re 100% support his efforts to save CHIP.

Even better contact Nancy Pelosi and tell her axing CHIP sucks, but try to use words that won’t ‘make’ them cover their ears and not listen to the ‘concern troll’.

House Health Bill Kills Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

4:44 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

"I don’t think there’s any reason to dismantle a program that works."
Senator Jay Rockefeller, on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Though Jay Rockefeller saved CHIP in the Senate Finance committee version of health insurance reform, the House version has gotten rid of it. As pointed out in the Charleston Gazette, moving children into the insurance exchanges (those with parents who can afford to do that, you’d be out of luck if your parents can’t afford health insurance) means these kids’ health care gets much more costly and covers much less:

If the children were moved to private insurance, their parents would also pay significantly more in premiums and out-of-pocket expense, according to an actuarial study by financial consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

Using data from 17 states, researchers found that, at 175 to 225 percent of poverty, parents of CHIP children paid up to 2 percent of their child’s treatment. If the same children were transferred to private plans, their parents would pay between 5 and 35 percent of the cost of care.

"Most of these parents are working people who are counting dollars," said Renate Pore, health care analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. Families eligible for CHIP make too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance, she said.

"CHIP is the stronger coverage package, and we are very concerned about the idea that those kids would be moved over without some protection," said Bruce Lesley, director of First Focus, the national child advocacy group that commissioned the actuarial study.

The CHIP program includes developmental screening and preventative care that is not covered by most adult plans. It covers a wide range of services, including doctor and hospital visits, immunizations and prescriptions, tests and X-rays, diabetic care, and dental and vision care. It provides case management for children with special needs.

"There are many wonderful parts of the reform legislation, and many things in health care that need to be changed," Lesley said, "but this is one that should be left alone."

Note the anonymity of the critic in the next passage. Inside the Beltway it is apparently politically dangerous to advocate for good health care for children:

Yet the proposed shuffle has roused concerns from some Democratic lawmakers and children’s health care advocates, who fear the move would cause some youngsters to lose coverage as they jump from highly subsidized CHIP plans into private coverage that could prove more expensive for those low-income families. Critics also worry that the private plans won’t offer the same extensive benefits that CHIP does.

"The president has promised to build upon what works and to allow people to keep the coverage they have," said a representative of one children’s welfare group, speaking only anonymously because of the delicate political nature of the topic. "That promise should apply to kids as well. However, there is growing concern and evidence that the health insurance exchanges will still impose higher out-of-pocket costs for families with fewer benefits for children than CHIP coverage."

As noted in Rabble.ca,

Suzy Khimm at TAPPED argues that killing CHIP could be a good thing, provided the kids continue to enjoy the same legal protections that they get under the public plan. Khimm suggests that moving low-risk kids into insurance exchanges could help keep costs down for everyone by making the risk pool healthier on average. . . .

That’s a nice idea, but it seems foolish to scrap a popular and successful social program in favor of an untested insurance exchange system.

Rockefeller is much more doubtful than Khimm about putting kids at the mercy of the insurance companies in the exchanges, and actually echoes Rabble’s sentiments (emphasis added):

Under the finance panel’s bill [prior to its revision], Medicaid would be expanded, but the CHIP program would phase out as those kids transitioned into insurance plans on newly proposed state insurance exchanges. Rockefeller argued the need to keep those youngsters in CHIP, rather than pushing them to the exchange, “where they’re at the mercy of people who will have them for lunch.” He was talking about private insurance companies.

The West Virginia Democrat, who chairs the Finance Committee’s health subpanel, sponsored an amendment to keep CHIP as it is. “I don’t think there’s any reason to dismantle a program that works,” he said.

BTW, CHIP can be much improved, for example by legislating that it cover all kids in families up to 400% of the federal poverty level. Marian Wright Edelman:

We need to end the bureaucratic barriers that keep two out of three of the more than eight million uninsured children who are already eligible for either CHIP or Medicaid from actually getting the care they need. A simple, seamless enrollment process like older Americans have for Medicare would ensure our children are cared for and covered. We need to guarantee every child access to the full range of preventive and other health care services they need and that we now provide to all children in Medicaid but not to all children in CHIP or in the proposed Exchange. A child covered by CHIP has the same value as a child covered by Medicaid and all deserve comprehensive care regardless of the program they are in. And we need to provide an affordable national health safety net for children whose families make up to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($66,000 for a family of four) and eliminate the unjust lottery of geography. Whether a child’s family can afford coverage should not depend on where they live. New York covers children up to 400 percent; North Dakota only to 160 percent; and Massachusetts and twenty-one other states, plus the District of Columbia are already at 300 percent. A child in North Dakota is no less valuable than a child in New York or Massachusetts.

Health care subsidies NOT tied to inflation

11:01 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Why is stuff for the rest of us never tied to inflation? Anyway, I just wanted to highlight letsgetitdone‘s devastating comment on the emerging health insurance bill, yesterday over at firedoglake:

Also, the health care subsidies provided in the bill are not tied by the legislation to inflation in private insurance premiums. So, as the years pass, this bill will provide mandates for individuals to buy insurance, but subsidies that are inadequate to fund private sector premiums. This situation may even exist in 2013, since the lack of price controls in the bill almost guarantees that by the time the exchange is operative, insurance premiums will have risen 40-50% over today’s prices.

[P.S. -- Jason Rosenbaum in comment 2 below sez this pre-2013 inflation concern may be groundless.]

Great, what an easy way for Congress to cut subsidies by 12-14% every year going forward, which is how much premiums have been skyrocketing recently. After all, it’s just raising ‘taxes’ on the lower-middle class and working poor, who I don’t see a whole lot of the health care debate Congressional Democrats or Republicans giving a shit about. The quote is confirmed by Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News, in In Finance Bill’s Fine Print May Cause Sticker Shock For Some Consumers, though the relevant provisions are not at all simple. She introduces the topic as follows:

Proponents of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill say the legislation will limit the amount that lower- and middle-income people must pay for health insurance to a maximum of 12 percent of their incomes.

But there’s a catch: The fine print shows that, over time, the premium costs could rise well beyond those caps. That’s because the cost of coverage would shift from a percentage of income to a percentage of the premium, no matter how high the premiums go.

Wow, btw, so they settled on 12 percent? Pretty hefty that. Obviously (from the same article):

Economist Uwe Reinhardt of Princeton says it would be better to limit the amount paid by lower income families to a percentage of income, even if it required more federal money for subsidies.

“That way the risk is borne by the taxpayer,” says Reinhardt. The way the legislation is written, he added, “the risk of the premium increase is borne by the low-income family.”

[Judith Solomon, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities] says although this issue has not generated much debate yet, it could if enacted.

But the growth over time of how much people pay toward premiums “will be one of the things to look at once implementation goes forward,” Solomon says. “It gives at least the feeling that there is a real stake in keeping [premium] growth down.”

Well, why the hell hasn’t it generated much debate? Why is this one of those ‘after passage and implementation we gotta monitor that’ deals? Ferchrissakes write your Congressperson and demand that (fucking obviously) the subsidies in the final bill must be tied to the inflation in health insurance premiums. Nobody in Congress who claims the ‘progressive’ label should be allowed to vote for a measure designed to ‘tax’ and further impoverish some of the worst off people in our country. C’mon pwoggies!