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Stateside: 21st Century Slavery

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

21st Century Slavery

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr Day--in fact, the twentieth anniversary of its being a federal holiday--so I was able to catch up on seeing evening network news. ABC, CBS and NBC all air their network newscasts at the same time here on the West Coast, and skipping between them was like skimming a stone across a pond, their broadcasts were so alike.

The news bulletins don't just air at the same time, the exact same news stories play on all of them: the botched US strike in Pakistan, Russia and the Iranian nuclear face-off, the publication of research that shows exercise might prevent senile dementia, and, of course, news about MLK Day celebrations.

I found it ironic that President Bush and his wife chose MLK Day to focus on the freeing of the slaves--George visiting the National Archives to look at Lincoln's proclamation ending slavery and Laura attending the Liberian inaugural of Africa's first elected female leader--when the biggest story of the day was the botched implementation of the new Medicare prescription benefit.

The trading of human beings as if they were just another farm animal used to turn a profit from a plantation, and the trading of human beings' information as if they are cash cows to be given to Big Pharma, and the health insurance industry to pump dry of their income are the exact same evil in my book.

Despite all the ballyhoo about how seniors and the disabled--who are the folks who qualify for Medicare (the federal health insurance plan) and Medicaid (the states' health insurance plans)--would be able to choose their own prescription drug coverage, in November, state governments sent everyone's information to whichever health insurance provider the states considered the most appropriate and enrolled them that way.

As a result, some people who get very expensive drugs--such as those for epilepsy--were put on plans that didn't cover their cost, and instead of having a co-payment at the chemist shop of just a few dollars, they had to pay hundreds of dollars to get a month's supply. The federal government has since stepped in to act as a kind of guarantor to the drug companies for 30 days until the botch-up is sorted out. A botch-up caused by crucial data not moving along with the beneficiaries' information when the states signed them up in bulk.

Now, I gather that it's just a sub-set of people whom this affects, but a week ago, I was already hearing from some seniors I was working with that the new drug benefit was just a federally endorsed scam that benefited health insurers and drug companies much more than it does all the folks it allegedly covers for prescription drug costs.

I repeat. The federal and state governments' collusion with corporations in this manner simply enslaves people. It turns them into money-laundering machines, whereby the support given by corporations to elected representatives resides temporarily as some kind of "benefit" and is passed straight back to the corporations, several-fold.

For public broadcasting channel PBS's coverage of this and other news stories on MLK Day, 2006, go to and look at the Monday, January 16 link.



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