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Earlier this week, the Denver Post published a story about Morgan Carroll, a Democratic state senator from Aurora, who had angered the leadership in the legislature after posting a blog last month criticizing the way they treated Senate Bill 166, "which sought to ban drug companies from giving gifts to doctors or reselling patient prescription information for marketing purposes." In the article, Carroll shrugged off criticism from the likes of Senate President Peter Groff, and she apparently meant it. Several days later, the item in question remains on her website, making it clear why Groff was steamed. Here's what Carroll wrote:
Pharmaceutical Lobby Kills Health Care Reform
So perhaps you have read the earlier post about why -- given $2.4 trillion in health care spending, 800,000 uninsured people, 25% of housing crisis generated by underlying medical problems and more than 50% of foreclosures being driven in whole or in part by the uncontrolled cost of health care -- we need health care reform.
The industry spends $7 billion per year in gifts, $30 billion in advertising (equal to the TOTAL cost of ALL healthcare spending in the State of Colorado). They plunder databases with your prescription information and use it to promote their highest profit-margin drugs. Given that every person who has ever run for office has probably spoken to you about the high cost of drugs, one might think they would support a chance to do something about it -- not so.
Yesterday we had a "hearing" on pharmaceutic reform. The drug lobby was back in full force -- and I wasn't surprised by that. I knew I was taking on the drug lobby.
Yesterday, I was grateful for one senator who listened and kept and open mind.
Voting yes for consumers, patient safety and reducing the cost of drugs:
Sen. Joyce Foster (D-Denver).
Voting against pharmaceutical reform and with the PhRMA lobby were:
Sen. Jen Veiga (D-Denver)
Sen. Lois Tochtrop (D-Adams)
Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder)
Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch)
Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield)
Sen. Mark Scheffel (R-Douglas)
People have a right of course to vote no and I knew it would be a difficult bill, but what did surprise me was that the Democratic leadership was so complicit in spiking the very health care reform we all campaigned on.
The process of the bill is as telling as the result:
-- The health care bill was assigned to a committee on business, not health.
-- President Groff refused even a short extension to consider amendments that may have achieved pharmaceutical/health care reform, effectively killing the bill on a deadline technicality.
-- Chairwoman Veiga refused to even entertain a vote on an amendment -- something I have never seen in 5 years, also effectively killing the bill on a flex of bald chairing power.
-- Democratic Senator Heath indicated because he had Roche pharmaceuticals in his district he couldn't vote for the bill.
-- Democratic Senator Tochtrop said her concern was about samples, even though samples were exempted from the bill.
-- Not one colleague could point to one provision of the bill or recommend one change. Normally, members of the same party will at least attempt to work with a bill sponsor. Here quite the opposite was true.
-- The Senators left during the hearing intermittently to talk to the drug lobby outside the hearing, missing key testimony.
During the committee drug lobbyists were lining up to repeat talking points which were rehearsed, and divorced from the actual legislation. Clearly, many had not even read the bill. They were laughing at witnesses, sharing food and gum with Senators, and closed the evening with smiles and celebrations at their excellent handywork in thwarting pharmaceutical health care reforms one more year in one more state.
We can and have to do better than this by the people of Colorado.
Subsequent blogs -- about Carroll's call to end gender discrimination in health-care rates, for instance -- are just as straightforward and plainspoken as the one that ticked off many of the state's top Dems. If only she were more prolific. The most recent salvo went up on March 17, with nothing seeing publication since the arrival of the aforementioned Post account. Still, don't expect her next offering to be tentative just because an earlier one caused a kerfuffle. Judging by her blog as a whole, Carroll may be the rare politician who truly does value straight talk over the crooked kind.