Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Right Choice For The Wrong Reason

The Governor is, by and large, a pretty predictable guy. Since the Governor is trying to fashion himself as a textbook conservative -- smaller government, no new taxes, family values -- it's usually pretty easy to guess where the Governor will land on any given issue.

$7.5 million for women's health? It was never going to happen, because there was a scintilla of a hint that the money would support (but not fund) abortions.

Millionaires' Tax? No brainer. It was never going to happen.

But this predictability makes the exceptions stand out all the more. It was surprising when the Governor dropped his insistence on a Constitutional amendment to cap property tax increases. Pragmatic and effective, yes, but surprising.

And when a pattern starts to emerge in the Governor's surprises, I grab onto them like tea leaves in a very dry cup. And here's what has my attention now.

1. After initially proposing to cut it, the Governor found $55.5 million dollars to fund the Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled program. The money came from changes to Medicare Part D under ObamaCare, higher rebates from drug manufacturers to the State and increased use of generic drugs by seniors.

2. When 950 people were dropped from New Jersey's AIDS Drugs Assistance Program, the Governor found a way to replace the $7.9 million needed to allow these people to continue to receive their life-saving drugs, $2.9 million from a new Federal grant program and $5 million from additional rebates from pharmaceutical companies. While this proposal would cover AIDS drugs, it would not cover any other drugs AIDS patients may need to counter the side effects of treatment.

What do these two things have in common? On the political front, both moves by the Governor allowed him to score points against Democrats. One of the stated rationales for the Millionaires' Tax was to fund the Pharamceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled program. By finding the money for the program, the Governor removed that piece of the Democrat's argument.

The Governor's announcement regarding AIDS drugs came a day after Sen. Joseph Vitale, a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, issued a public statement asserting that the expected increase in pharmaceutical rebates would be enough to maintain the ADAP program, meaning that AIDS patients would continue to receive all their current medications. In making his announcement, the Governor accused Sen. Vitale of playing politics with people's lives, saying that had the Sen. picked up the phone to call the Governor, the Sen. could have saved the paper the letter was written on. Of course, if the Governor had told the Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/ AIDS that a fix was in the works, things also would have been different. And if the Governor had found the fix BEFORE sending out letters to patients telling them they were being cut off at the end of July, this whole brouhaha could have been avoided.

So, it seems that the Governor will find the money for pharmaceuticals if it means he gets to score political points against Democratic legislators.

Also, while women's health is a decidedly liberal cause, prescriptions for seniors is neither conservative nor liberal. So funding prescriptions for seniors is politically productive for the Governor. And support for AIDS patients plays well in communities of color and in the churches of Camden and Newark, where the AIDS epidemic is thriving in New Jersey.

So, it seems that the Governor will find the money for health care if it is for a key voting bloc, such as seniors and communities of color, but not for anything associated with abortion.

Another coincidence is how the Governor funded both initiatives -- federal funds plus pharmaceutical rebates. And in both instances, the Governor claims to have "found" new Federal funds and "negotiated" increased rebates.

But at least with respect to AIDS drugs, the increased rebates were negotiated by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors -- not the Governor. That's how Sen. Vitale and the Advisory Committee knew about them. And as for new Federal grants for AIDS meds, that was announced in early July. In other words, the Governor didn't do anything except admit that cuts to ADAP were unnecessary.

And with respect to PAAD, the ObamaCare money was available before the Governor decided to cut the program. I can't say for sure about the pharmaceutical rebates, but clearly to some extent the Governor merely acknowledged the existence of money he had previously chosen to ignore.

So, it seems that the Governor is not telling the truth about how he funded these pharmaceutical access programs, or why. And what remains totally unclear is why both of these "surprises" had to do with pharmaceuticals. I mean, isn't there anything else the Governor has found a way to save, something that does not rely on ObamaCare and pharmaceutical company rebates?

Personally, I'm happy that seniors are getting their PAAD benefits and that AIDS patients are getting some of the medication they need. I just wish that the Governor was doing the right thing for the right reason. Because being able to consistantly expect the Governor to do the right thing for the right reason would restore my faith in government, which is being sorely tested these days.

1 comment:

  1. I'm afraid you give the Governor too much credit. He probably knew that a constitutional amendment for a property tax cap was not possible, but by backing off to a statutory cap, he appeared to compromise. Unfortunately, the Democrats have yet to learn to play this game. Had they put single payer on the table during the health care debate, we might have the public option today.