Richard Pombo Bamboozles Seniors
As some of you may know, Richard Pombo has been organizing “seminars” on Medicare Part D for seniors in his district. It’s bad enough that Pombo voted for the horrible Medicare Debacle bill. But the McNerney Campaign has exposed these “seminars” for what they really are: cynical marketing ploys on the part of a lobbying group with strong ties to Big Pharma and other sectors of the for-profit healthcare industry.
It is deeply unethical for Pombo to invite groups to “inform” seniors when these group have an obvious conflict of interest. I understand that Pombo wants to put lipstick on the Medicare Part D pig, but he should leave his attempts to bamboozle seniors for the campaign trail.
To start off, let’s look at the main player (or should I say front group?) Medicare Today. Here is what a report they commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP said about Medicare Today (emphasis mine):
Medicare Today is a broad-based partnership of organizations representing seniors, patients, health care groups, employers, and others. The mission of this nonpartisan partnership is to educate and inform Medicare beneficiaries and the public at large on the benefits provided through The Medicare Prescription, Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) and about how millions of seniors will benefit from the new Medicare law. Together, the group is conducting a comprehensive outreach program to reach seniors through a grassroots, person-to-person approach, explaining the Medicare drug benefit and other new Medicare features with clarity and objectivity. Medicare Today is administered by the Healthcare Leadership Council, located in Washington, D.C. (Page 2).
In other words, the sole purpose of this group is to market the MMA to the public. The group has no other purpose, and is instead an astroturf operation run by the Healthcare Leadership Council. Of course, it’s important to know what the HLC is all about in order to assess Medicare Today.
Here is what HLC said about themselves in a statement they made to the FDA (emphasis mine):
The Healthcare Leadership Council is unique in that it represents all sectors of the health care industry that would be affected by the FDA’s bar coding regulation, including hospitals and hospital systems, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, pharmaceutical and medical-surgical distributors, and medical device manufacturers.
A quick check of Source Watch shows that in 2005, the funding came from their membership, which included:
- Abbott Laboratories
- Ascension Health Care
- Baxter International
- Baylor Health Care System
- Cleveland Clinic
- Eli Lilly & Company
- Fisher Scientific International
- Johnson & Johnson
- Mayo Clinic
- Merck & Company
HLC also seems to share an office (1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 550 South, Washington, DC 20004) with the Alliance to Improve Medicare, whose membership is an interesting assortment of big business and the health care and pharmaceutical industries.
What this all tells us is that Richard Pombo has no interest in providing high-quality, objective information to his constituents. Instead, he voted for a law so complicated that many of its purported beneficiaries cannot make heads or tails of it. And when faced with this fact, he uses the opportunity to bring in a group that lobbied for the law in the first place to tell Pombo’s confused and disheartened constituents how great the law is. It’s absolutely repulsive to me.
Furthermore, what really bothers me is how badly the press has been covering this. Instead of doing any sort of research, the media in the district has been credulously repeating Pombo’s line about these meetings.
In fact, the Tracy Press actually condemned McNerney today for seeking to educate the voters of the district about Richard Pombo’s attempt to bamboozle them. The Tracy Press editorial board writes:
BARB: To the McNerney for Congress campaign for its plans to host a counter-informational health care seminar adjacent to a Medicare Part D meeting for seniors that's sponsored by Rep. Richard Pombo's office. This morning's dueling events in northern Stockton will confuse citizens who seek more details on the federal prescription drug program. It is an improper time and location for Jerry McNerney, a Democratic candidate for Pombo's 11th House District seat, to chastise the congressman's nonpartisan effort, which McNerney claims is being fronted by the pharmaceutical industry.
Nonpartisan effort? Excuse me, Richard Pombo is finally being confronted with anger at his consistent practice of voting in favor of the interests of his campaign donors instead of the interests of his constituents. And so he gets an astroturf marketing group to lobby his angry constituents in favor of the Medicare Debacle bill? Pombo is not doing his constituents any favor, Medicare Today and the rest of the Big Pharma shills are doing Richard Pombo a favor. And that ought to be obvious to anyone who spends any amount of time looking at this situation. Furthermore, I think it is deeply disturbing that the editorial board would be so quick to condemn McNerney even before they have heard the evidence in this matter.
Lastly, I want to highlight the role of the McNerney Campaign in exposing this because the local press has been only too happy to take Pombo at his word about these events. And were it not for the McNerney Campaign, none of this information would have gotten out.
For example, the following is typical of the announcements that ran in the press about these events:
TRACY — Confused about Medicare Part D? Not to worry, you're not alone and a series of counseling events have been scheduled to help clear things up.
A Medicare Enrollment Event and Senior Health Fair is being held at the Lolly Hansen Senior Center, 375 E. Ninth St., today from noon to 3 p.m. The event is free to the public.
Seniors and others eligible for Medicare have only until May 15 to sign up for the Medicare Drug Plan and those who do not enroll or miss the window, may face penalties and will not be able to enroll again until November.
Congressman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, is sponsoring several seminars throughout his district, and more could be added, a spokeswoman said.
"Seniors should never go without prescriptions they need and must know we are here to help," Pombo said in prepared statement. "Every senior is eligible to enroll in this program, however to take advantage of this opportunity they must sign-up."
A seminar is scheduled for 10 a.m., April 10 in Stockton at O'Connor Woods, 3400 Wagner Heights Road, and another is scheduled for 10 a.m., April 29in San Ramon at the San Ramon Senior Center, 9300 Alcosta Blvd.
All attendees are encouraged to bring their Medicare card, a list of prescription drugs they currently take, and any paperwork sent by Medicare, Social Security or personal health plans that concern Medicare Part D.
For more information about the upcoming events, call (510) 271-0640, ext. 106.
"This event is a rare opportunity for seniors to obtain one-on-one counseling and information from experts on the new Medicare Drug Plans," said Dan Cohen, Northern California field director for Medicare Today.
"In less than an hour, seniors can get all the necessary information, receive individual help and even enroll in a new plan, saving them hundreds of dollars a year on prescription drugs."
It’s enough to make you sick.