On a Wednesday afternoon this spring, with overcast skies and gas-slicked puddles on Utopia Parkway, some two hundred pharmacists gathered on the fourth floor of St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens for the Fifty-Fourth Annual Dr. Andrew J. Bartilucci Pharmacy Congress. The plainclothes professionals sat around tables draped with red tablecloths, sipping plastic cups of coffee and occasionally glancing at their phones.
Last month, federal judge Edward Korman held that the Obama administration's override of the FDA's recommendation for over-the-counter emergency contraception was illegal. The "compromise" of making Plan B available without a prescription only to women over 17, Korman persuasively argued, was "arbitrary and capricious" and hence exceeded the power of the secretary of health and human services.
At the moment, the hot issue of the 2012 presidential campaign is Medicare, with the Obama and Romney campaigns trading charges and counter-charges over the health-insurance program for the elderly. Since we at the Prospect love clarifying the muddy and making the complex understandable, we thought we'd unpack the arguments the two sides are making and provide some context so we can all grasp this a bit better. We'll start with the campaigns' claims.
Does Mitt Romney actually want to "end Medicare as we know it"?
That's the charge Democrats are now making; here's a video the Obama campaign just released:
Sometime soon—probably in three weeks or so—the Supreme Court is going to hand down its ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Given what happened at the oral arguments, there aren't too many people predicting that the ACA will be upheld, although that of course remains a possibility. Those oral arguments now seem like someone smacking us awake out of a dream in which we believed that the Republican-appointed justices might have something in mind other than the partisan and ideological advantage of their side. It was a weird dream, so weird that in the days before the arguments, some people seriously discussed the possibility that Antonin Scalia might be bound by the logic he had followed in previous cases involving the commerce clause and vote to uphold the law. What a joke.
ViaGrist, Maryn McKenna at Wiredhighlights a new study about the increasingly terrifying affects of using so many antibiotics in factory farms:
Chickens, chicken meat and humans in the Netherlands are carrying identical, highly drug-resistant E. coli — resistance that is apparently moving from poultry raised with antibiotics, to humans, via food.
The drug maker AstraZeneca will now be able to market its cholesterol drug, Crestor, as a preventative drug to people who don't have cholesterol problems. While the drug's backers -- including a doctor who led the study, patented the test that will determine whether patients qualify for use of the drug, and thusly stands to make millions -- say it cuts the risks of heart attacks, strokes, or bypass surgeries roughly in half, it's half of a very small number. When you break it down, using the drug as a preventative measure helps 2 out of 1,000 people. All of this is according to the story in TheNew York Times.
The real political race for health care has just begun. The significance of the president's speech to Washington insiders was its signal about where the White House is placing its bets and its support. More on this in a moment. First, let's be clear about who's racing and why. Think of the speech as the starting gate of a two-month sprint between two competitors -- and they're not Democrats and Republicans.
This is just a minor example of the remarkable stupidity and incoherence evident throughout Michael Steele's disastrous NPR interview about health care, but I was struck by this part of his futile attempt to reconcile his competing positions as Medicare opponent and Medicare supporter:
The reality of it is simply this: I’m not saying I like or dislike Medicare. It is what it is. It is a program that has been around for over 40 years, and in those 40 years, it has not been run efficiently or well enough to sustain itself.