Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Big Pharma Bails Out SCHIP?

First, the bad news. In a survey of 686 Americans, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found that Americans, feeling the pinch of our is-it-a-recession-yet? economy, have cut back on their health care spending. Twenty-two percent of those surveyed said they are visiting their health care provider less often, and 11% are filling fewer prescriptions, decisions that can have serious repercussions for patients. People in the poorest households, making less than $25,000 per year, are most likely to skip appointments and drop or delay filling prescriptions, according to the survey. An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal pointed out that the number of prescriptions filled has dropped for first time in ten years, almost 2% in the most recent fiscal quarter.

If the poorest Americans are having trouble getting needed medical care, it's time for some intervention. Who's intervening? The pharmaceutical companies. Yesterday's Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report cited an article about this connection in CQ HealthBeat. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) have given $11.3 million to indirectly support the beleaugered State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a program targeted to children in low-income households and administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The PhRMA money will help fund advertisements by a SCHIP advocacy group in support of a SCHIP expansion bill vetoed by President Bush (HR 3963), Kaiser reported.

Insuring more poor children is ethicially sound. Not coincidentally, it will also boost sagging pharmaceutical industry profits if these children receive needed medication for asthma, diabetes, and other illnesses.

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