Rx DRUG BENEFIT II: Citizens for Better Medicare Blasted
Citizens for Better Medicare came under fire Tuesday from national consumer group Public Citizen, founded by presidential candidate Ralph Nader, the Billings Gazette reports. In a 38-page report, Public Citizen criticized the group for its financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry and its opposition to changes in the health care system, calling its supporters "a collection of shills, seedy direct-mail operatives and industry funded research and advocacy groups working in tight coordination with the drug lobby." A spokesperson for Citizens for Better Medicare called the findings "ridiculous" and "dead wrong." Dismissing Public Citizen as "left-wing," Dan Zielinski of the group's Washington office said Citizens for Better Medicare has "never hidden" its connections with drug companies and "does support real revision" in the health care system. He added, however, that his organization does not back price controls or Canadian-style health care (McLaughlin, 6/21).
Democrats Weigh In
Democrats also launched an attack against Citizens for Better Medicare and the pharmaceutical industry for their advertising blitz aimed at thwarting prescription drug benefit legislation. "Congress will begin to debate two different [prescription] plans, and, sadly, the pharmaceutical industry would distort the issue," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said. According to the Public Citizen Report, Citizens for Better Medicare has spent $65 million on ads opposing the Democratic drug benefit bill, creating a "false impression" of who is funding the campaign. "This is a shameless and cynical smoke screen," Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine) claimed, adding, "We want to stop price gouging." Socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also chided the industry for refusing to work with Congress on a drug benefit for seniors (Urban, Connecticut Post, 6/21).
Undaunted by Critics
Nevertheless, Citizens for Better Medicare continued its advertising barrage in Montana this week against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Brian Schweitzer, criticizing his efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs. The ads, airing in five Montana cities, challenged Schweitzer's stand on a prescription drug benefit for Medicare patients (Billings Gazette, 6/21).