Mind-boggling contraption

Tranquilizers like Valium are specifically excluded from coverage under the provisions of the new prescription-drug plan, and that’s a shame because the complexity of this legislation is causing a virtual epidemic of freaking out among the elderly population it was primarily implemented to help. The bureaucrats who crafted this drug bill call tranquilizers “social anxiety drugs,” but when it comes to anxiety, the U.S. government has seldom come up with a more anxiety-producing boondoggle than the Medicare prescription-drug program (Medicare Part D).

Older people are just about the only people left likely to remember the name Rube Goldberg. Goldberg was a cartoonist whose work appeared in scads of newspapers back during the Depression, a time when many of the people now about to fall under the auspices of this new government program were kids. Goldberg’s fame rests on his “invention” of hundreds of contraptions that did simple things with an absolute maximum degree of complexity.

Anyone looking for a modern-day Rube Goldberg contraption needs look no farther than this new prescription-drug plan. It is impossibly complicated, enormously expensive and absolutely mind-boggling to anyone looking to figure it out.

A plan of such labyrinthine complexity doesn’t happen by accident. This bit of legislation was created as a money gusher to the insurance and drug companies that hired the 952 lobbyists and spent the $141 million necessary to produce it. Add to that another $30 million in contributions to political campaigns, and what the big pharmacy companies got for their money was a $182 billion bump in profits, and a tsunami of confusion for elderly people trying to figure out how the damned thing works.

The news media haven’t begun to catch up with this story. We haven’t yet heard all that much about the anxiety this new plan is causing among the widows and grandmothers and widowers and pensioners. It is legislation that has all the earmarks of a great crime.

It was packaged and sold to make it look like a boon to the poor and the elderly, but the beneficiaries are the people who wrote the legislation—the insurance companies and drug companies receiving the windfall of profits.

If proof were needed that our government has been taken over by special interests, that collusion between elected representatives and lobbyists for major corporations is now business as usual and that we are no longer well-served by the people paid to represent us, this new Medicare plan is just that proof.

And if you don’t believe it, just try to sort out the relative merits of the competing choices available to you under its provision and then ask yourself just whose interests were being served when this Rube Goldberg device for delivering prescription drugs was built.