Friday, October 10, 2003

Let's Not the Facts Stand in the Way of a Good Sound Bite

Here’s a fascinating exchange from last night’s Democratic Debate.

A stroke victim on a fixed income tells of having to choose between medicine and food and asks Sen. Edwards what he would do about prescription drug costs.

As expected, former trial lawyer Edwards says he will stand up to the “price-gouging” monopolistic pharmaceutical giants.

But wait, when asked how much she pays per month, the woman says because of a Pfizer program she only pays $15. “I can afford it now,” she says.

So what exactly is the problem?

She has no supplemental insurance so she can’t afford her medicine, but she CAN afford her medicine because of a price-gouging monopolistic pharmaceutical company.

The solution is clear. “We need a president of the United States that will stand up for you and people like your family.”

WOODRUFF: All right, thank you.


I want to turn to Karen Dickinson. Karen, you are, you and I spoke a few minutes ago. Where are you? Right here. Please. Stand up, and do we have a microphone?

You are, I'm told, a stroke survivor ...


WOODRUFF: ... and you have concerns about health care, specifically about prescription drugs.

QUESTION: Yes. Forgive me for having to read this.

I am a stroke survivor, I am disabled and on a fixed income. For seven months I went without prescription medication because we cannot afford supplemental insurance to my Medicare.

I chose food over medicine. How can you assure me and the many other voters -- there's millions like me -- that you empathize with my hardship and as president you will make certain this won't happen to any other American? Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Who has -- Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: Thank you.

Karen, how long have you been without any kind of coverage for your prescription drugs?

QUESTION: It's been over a year.

EDWARDS: Over a year. And how much do your prescription drugs cost?

QUESTION: I went on a Merck program, and that's why I can do it, I can afford it now. And they're $15 that I pay. Before that it was 400 and some dollars a month.

EDWARDS: Which is just crippling, crippling for you, isn't it?

QUESTION: I get $800 -- and I don't care who knows it -- I get $830 a month from my Social Security because I had to take it at such a young age.

EDWARDS: And you and your family are in the same situation that millions of families are...

QUESTION: Millions.

EDWARDS: ... around this country. Here's what I think we need to do. First, we need a real comprehensive prescription drug benefit for you and family, under Medicare, not the George Bush plan that's going the Congress right now. That's the last thing we need to do.

And second, we have to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for you and for all of those Americans who are struggling to pay the cost, which means having a president to do what I've done my whole life, which is have the backbone to stand up to these big drug companies, with their advertising, with their price gouging, not allowing drugs to come back in here out of Canada, stopping their abuse of the system to keep a monopoly and keep generics out of the market.

WOODRUFF: All right.

EDWARDS: We need a president of the United States that will stand up for you and people like your family. I will be that president.


The details of the Merck program can be found here. A hell of a lot less expensive and complicated then what Senator Edwards is proposing.