Drug imports, Medicaid changes, 9-11 testimony

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Health care: Jo Ann Emerson might have moved a mountain in her bargaining on prescription-drug imports from Canada and Europe. She was a leader of a bipartisan group in D.C. fighting for the issue.

The following is an excerpt from a private newsletter which addresses the issue:

"Fearing voter wrath, Bush and Congress will OK Rx drug imports from Canada and maybe Europe. Authorization will come in a bill that Congress will pass, and Bush will sign, before the November elections. Bush and GOP congressional leaders previously opposed the measure.

"Their about-face is good news for employers, seniors and others. True, many large employers already get sizable discounts on Rx drugs via bulk purchases. But the bill will put a brighter spotlight on costs, likely helping to dampen price increases overall, benefiting everyone."

Another subject of interest in the same newsletter on the state and national scene pertains to other medical cost increases and efforts to contain them.

"The warnings about Medicare will bring means-tested premiums, lower payments for providers and eventually, cuts in benefits. The new report predicting Medicare will start running a deficit by 2010 and go broke in 2019 leaves Congress little choice but to make changes.

"But fixes to Medicare may take Congress years to implement. Lawmakers and other government officials will need a big dose of courage to make the painful choices that are going to be needed to save Medicare. For now, the gloomy news will bring only more-heated partisan rhetoric, with politicians sidestepping any action that might upset older voters.

"Meanwhile, Bush will push use of private Health Savings Accounts, call for more limits on medical malpractice suits and go after fraud.

"Democrats will argue for overhauling the Medicare Rx drug law, calling it a costly giveaway to Rx drug companies and private insurers.

"Social Security fares better in the trustees' annual report. It won't go broke until 2042, giving Congress plenty of time to act.

"Still, changes are inevitable. Options include reducing benefits, raising the retirement age, phasing in adjustments in payroll taxes, taxing more benefits and some privatizing for younger workers."

I met over the weekend with some people on Missouri's Medicaid legislation and plan to report on this. A bill recently passed the Missouri House and is in the Senate. It's important for Missourians to get the facts on this legislation. We published a guest column from state Rep. Jason Crowell on the subject, and so did the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It's expected that the bill will be debated in the Senate sometime in the next two weeks.


Condoleezza Rice will testify again in front of the same 9-11 commission that she has already testified before (for four hours in a non-public setting). Expect all 10 commissioners to show up for her recently agreed to public hearing. (Only five felt her testimony important enough to attend her first hearing.)

This high-IQ National Security Council adviser is a tribute to our national leadership team.

I support her public testimony, but it's all politics. She's previously stated her preference to testify and has been questioned and interviewed by the national media. Isn't it time we focus a little more on what we should be doing with the terrorist activity that is a worldwide threat!?

Richard Clarke's testimony, book promotion and saturated, overblown media coverage have prompted the administration's change from the historic executive privilege presidential separation-of-powers precedent to not have your NSC advisor testify publicly in front of a government-created position to permit testimony.

Note: President Clinton used the same privilege at one time to prohibit this very same Clarke (who admitted recently he voted for Al Gore for president) from testifying.

It's all politics -- at a time that I and many others think we're on wartime alert.

In a recent column in the Washington Post by Condoleezza Rice, she stated:

"President Bush has acted swiftly to unify and streamline our efforts to secure the American homeland. He has transformed the FBI into an agency dedicated to catching terrorists and preventing future attacks. The president and Congress, through the USA Patriot Act, have broken down the legal and bureaucratic walls that prior to Sept. 11 hampered intelligence and law enforcement agencies from collecting and sharing vital threat information. Those who now argue for rolling back the Patriot Act's changes invite us to forget the important lesson we learned on Sept. 11.

"In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the president, like all Americans, wanted to know who was responsible. It would have been irresponsible not to ask a question about all possible links, including to Iraq - a nation that had supported terrorism and had tried to kill a former president. Once advised that there was no evidence that Iraq was responsible for Sept. 11, the president told his national Security Council on Sept. 17 that Iraq was not on the agenda and that the initial U.S. response to Sept. 11 would be to target al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"Because of President Bush's vision and leadership, our nation is safer. We have won battles in the war on terror."

  • I noticed in our business section recently that Garber's Men's Wear in the Town Plaza Shopping Center has received the Elite Retailer of the Year award from Jim's Formal Wear. Jim's is the largest formal wear distribution network in the United States with over 4,000 independent retailers.

    Rodney Bridges, Garber's owner, has been featuring Jim's Formal Wear for over 31 years. Rodney is one of Cape Girardeau's best-known entrepreneurs who's personally selected inventory (including quite interesting ties) has been providing custom-coordinated men's clothing assistance seldom found today.

    Congratulations to Rodney and his sales staff who've been helping the spring prom students class up for their memorable evening.

    Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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