Geezer Gas

I feel the Senior Citizens, of which I am one, need a place to express their thoughts and goals. We need to be heard, and our voices will speak from this corner.

Location: Sious Falls, South Dakota

I am an avid fisherman which is an addiction I inherited from my Dad. I teach classes in custom fishing rod building. I started fooling with computers when few companies had a computer, and even fewer individuals had a PC. Today I teach computer classes for fellow seniors at our local senior center. I am married to a Master Gardener, so I spend a lot of time digging beds for her plants. I spend a lot of time admiring the achievements of my three sons and their offsprings. Most of all my wonderful soulmate keeps my life alive and exciting.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Medicare D is a Major Farce

I hate to go on a rant, but at times I just can’t hold it back. Maybe rant isn’t the best choice of words. Here’s the dilemma. When the price of gas goes over two or even three dollars a gallon, I get ticked off, but I pay it, I have no choice.  Then I read articles about the petroleum companies scoring obscene profits.  I say to myself, and to anyone else that will listen, “The profits these petroleum companies are making is obscene.  It’s not right. The government should do something about it.”

Yeah, what?  Forget the fact that these oil guys are lined up waiting to provide goods, services and campaign donations to any politico, regardless of party.  But when we start creating laws and regulations that define company profits we take steps toward the erosion of our whole American business structure.  Oil companies make the profits they do because they can.  We’d like them to be nice guys and say, “Gee…it’s not right for people to have to pay that much for gas, so we’ll just lower the price so you’ll think we are good corporate citizens. “  Never happen.  Nor do I see on company wanting to gain a larger market share by lowering their prices to gain more customers.  So, we learn to live with it...not happily, but it just becomes a way of life.

Then, our Washington guys see the price of prescription drugs is creating havoc with a lot of citizens and their budgets.  Our American way says we can’t legislate against the drug companies, for the same
collective reasons we can’t legislate against their oil brethren.  So these elected thinkers concoct the Medicare D program.  It ‘s designed to assist folks that can’t afford the drugs that will keep them alive, by helping with the cost.  The fact that the regulations they wrote will set a record for total confusion is beside the fact.

Enter the drug companies and their fellow conspirators.  They now see the new drug program as a way to insure their future harvest of billions in profits.  This potential windfall makes the oil barons look like bullies in the schoolyard conning kids out of their lunch money.

If you can’t pay for or don’t want to pay for gas to keep your car operating, you can walk, bike, car-pool or take public transportation. The alternative to paying or not paying for drugs offers no similar solution.  You either pay, or get sicker, or even the ultimate protest to drug profits, go on to another world.

And damn it, I don’t think it’s fair or right.  A host of articles I’ve read show some drugs have an ingredient  cost of pennies, and are wholesaled for several dollars.

Here’s just one of the many examples I’ve been able to track down. Xanax is a drug that is used to relieve mild depression and anxiety. Cost of the active ingredients for a month’s supply, about 21/2 cents.  It retails for $136.79 for 100 pills.  Mark up, 569,958%.  I realize there is cost of manufacture, advertising, packaging, research and development…and probably pages more of costs the drug companies could list.  So, let’s look at the wholesale price of this drug.  Retailers can purchase Xanax anywhere from $2.20 to 2.40 for a month’s supply.  Now for the fun.

A members-only store, Costco, sells Xanax for $7.67 for a month’s supply, or a mark up of 236% (the low). Walgreen’s was about in the middle, price wise, at $15.99 or a 600% mark up and the high was a Sav-Mor drug store that sold the same one month supply for over $44 bucks, or a markup of a whopping 1873%. These were all in the Detroit area where the research was done.

I think you’ll agree that this can’t go on.  But I have an answer.  Congress has to act and do so quickly.  If any drug store, independent or chain, wishes to participate in the new prescription drug plan, they must accept a price per pill list.  This list will be developed by an independent group that will have no representation from the drug industry, insurance companies, or hospitals. Failure to subscribe to this list and they will prevented from filling prescriptions under Medicare D. The list will provide the drug store and the wholesale distribution system a reasonable profit, say in the neighborhood of 100%. This doesn’t restrict either the drug companies or the drug stores from making a profit.  If they wish to sell their product under this government drug assistance program, they can.  Bottom line? The cost to the government will be reduced by an epic amount. Citizens will no longer have to choose between life saving drugs or food.  It’s a win-win situation.

But the problem is easy to spot.  Will those inside the Beltway subscribe to a plan that might restrict or cut off their pipeline to campaign contributions?  Our “elected ones” seem to ignore what’s really best for their constituents.

An elected member of the Michigan House of Representatives was concocting a bill to protect state pharmacies from unfair competition from out of state mail order drug companies.  The Rep stated his 4 drug stores were charging a low, competitive rates.  When a reporter showed him his stores were marking up drugs from 1000 to 1357%, he said he’d be happy to look at the evidence.  His bill went no farther.

I still think my plan is worth looking into.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Time to Change

As I was working on my blog, I got an email from a close friend.  She attached a newspaper article that detailed the stabbing death of a friend and colleague.  She was shocked and hurt.  

Though I didn’t know the lady that was killed, I realized my life, like most others, has had some unexpected twists and turn.  What this brought to mind is my TAT Syndrome, “There’s Always Tomorrow.”  I’ve done it most of my life, put off today what you can do tomorrow.  Of course it makes little difference if I mow the lawn today or tomorrow, or get books to the library this week.  But the more serious aspects of the syndrome have truly affected my life.

I spent the majority of my wage earning years involved in many activities other than my work and my marriage.  The latter I lost, and with it the joy of watching my sons grow.  I ignored overtures from my folks to come visit, the syndrome again.  

As the New Year starts I have renewed my vow not to succumb to this self inflicted “disease.” I cannot afford it.  When my Dad died, I was on the road working, and had not visited him in many months.  Just a little over a year ago my Mom died.  I was not there, but had planned a visit when the winter weather got better.  When I look at the new calendar, I realize I will turn 80 this year, and I don’t know how many things I can put off.  Rather than take the chance on missing anything, I want to start today, right now.  With luck, I can invest in another blog a year from now, and see how well I did. It took some strength to quit a career of smoking, and a lot of painful hard work to quit an equally devastating devotion to liquor.  If I put those completely behind me, than I guess I can do this.  I will, damn straight

One of my plans was to sort out a bunch of stuff that I’ve collected in my office.  When I went through an old file, I found something I’d written over a decade ago.  It underscores my TAT Syndrome

I Wish
On a table in the living room,
On the wall here in my den
Are pictures of my Dad and I
And I took both of them.

I took this when my Dad and I
Went far north to fish.Catching the biggest Walleye
Was then my only wish.

When I took the other one,
40 years had slipped on by
But there were a lot of memories
Shared by my Dad and I.

A pal, a friend and inspiration
More than he’d ever know
But as I set here now,
How I wish I’d told him so.

I seldom said, “What should I do?”
Or “Which way should I go?”
Yet he helped to guide my way,
More times than I would know.

I guess I learned from my mistakes,
Though I repeated one or two
He was there to pick me up;
Never asked, “Now what did you do?”

When I reflect on life with him,
Oh yes he was a man.
I hope to be as great as he,
Though try is all I can.

A pal, a friend, and inspiration,
More than he’d even know
But now that Dad is long since gone,
How I wish I told him so.

Oh, I’ve also decided that I won’t postpone winning the lottery.  But wait, I have to buy a ticket first. Damn that syndrome