Lost in the frenzied discussion about who is winning the lottery for a flu shot and how much price gouging is going on for the remaining vials is the question of how much George W. Bush's politicization of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) played in creating this crisis.
Back in 1996, Terry Johnson, the human-resources director for Ada County, Idaho, was excited about his new health-care coverage. He had just helped the county become the first in the United States to offer employees a medical savings account (MSA) as an alternative to traditional indemnity health insurance, and he was eager to try it. The accounts would be exempt from state taxes up to $2,000.
Last July, as the debate over a Medicare prescription-drug bill heated up, AARP, the nation's largest senior-citizen lobbying organization with some 35 million members, sent a letter to Congress detailing issues that "must be fixed" before it could endorse a final bill. Among the group's chief concerns were "program structure and the adequacy and affordability of the benefit package." If the legislation "does more harm than good," AARP warned, the group would oppose it. Coverage in the press painted an ominous picture: AARP might be ready to pull the plug on the drug bill.