Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Lots of news these days about prescription drug pricing. Maine won its suit to leverage its Medicaid buying power on behalf of the uninsured. Illinois received approval from HHS to pilot test expanding Medicaid coverage for seniors to include prescription drugs. The VA gets a PR piece from USAToday. And Congress is debating proposals for Medicare prescription drug benefits.
One option that seems not to have been considered is creating private buyer markets. I don't have any problem with government purchasing co-ops like the VA or Medicaid proposals. But, I wonder why a well-connected private, politically active group couldn't negotiate for these same benefits directly. Specifically, I'm thinking of the AARP. I know why they don't--because they want to get the care free from the government--but if the goal were to provide prescription drugs cheaply to seniors, AARP would seem to be in a terrific position to negotiate discounts from drug companies. In fact, such a drug benefit might be an even bigger boon to AARP membership. The infrastructure and political power already exists to make such a program happen.
Similarly, it would seem natural for other groups to organize for these and other benefits. Why couldn't NOW organize a special health insurance program for women? Or, the NAACP to provide health insurance for its members? Even better, it would be interesting to see groups organize specifically to do these things. Couldn't divorced women form an organization themselves to offer credit rating assistance, short-term insurance, job search/career assistance? Or divorced men? I guess I'm just intrigued to see organized political effort for specific accomplishments rather than traditional legislative lobbying.
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