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It might have been more productive to beat my head against a brick wall. The 60 Minutes report last night referred to Families USA as a “non-partisan health care watchdog group.” The liberal media increasingly uses the term “non-partisan” to obscure the fact that a group has a left-wing agenda and mislead viewers into believing that it is an objective organization.
Reporter Steve Kroft then stated, “Families USA reported in a January study that Medicare patients are being charged nearly 60 percent more for the top twenty drugs than veterans pay under a program run by the Veterans Administration.” Yet Montgomery County, one of the two counties used in the study, had a median household income more than 80 percent greater than the median income for all of the U.S. Did Kroft note that? Of course not! He simply sucked up to Ron Pollack of Families USA by lobbing him a softball: “And this [the lower VA price] is because the VA negotiates with the drug companies on price?” “That’s correct,” replied Pollack.
But the VA only negotiates the price of a drug after the drug company has agreed to the VA’s price control. If a drug company does not agree to sell its drug to the VA for 24% less than the average commercial price, then the VA does not include the drug on its formulary and, thus, VA patients do not have access to it. Once the drug company has agreed to an initial price control, then the VA tries to negotiate the price down further.
Finally, 60 Minutes misled viewers on the cost of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. Kroft noted, correctly, that in 2003 the Administration withheld from Congress an estimate that over ten years the Drug Benefit would cost upwards of $500 billion. What Kroft failed to inform viewers is that the Drug Benefit has so far cost less than projections, and that part of the savings has come from competition.
There is good reason not to expect quality reporting from CBS. However, if we don’t demand higher standards from the mainstream media, then its flacking for left-wing groups like Families USA will continue. In that spirit, I encourage you to send an email to 60 Minutes (60M@cbsnews.com) and request fair and balanced reporting. In the meantime, 60 Minutes ought to send Families USA a bill — for advertising.
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