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George Michael: Is our faith in government programs misplaced?

June 28, 2013|By GEORGE MICHAEL

A recent front-page story in The Herald-Mail reported that a Hagerstown pharmacist pleaded guilty to writing prescriptions for powerful narcotics for hundreds of clients who drove here by the “van loads” to do business. 

This story is shocking on several levels.

It’s bad enough that people were coming to Hagerstown from out of state to get their needed fixes. But the worst part of this story is that the pharmacist was billing Medicare and Medicaid for some of these painkillers.

In other words, you and I were paying for the drug addicts to get high.

How many of you think this is a rare and unusual case? How many pharmacists have done or are doing the same in Chicago, New York, L.A. and Miami? And yes, in small towns and cities like Hagerstown, too. If we knew, it would probably make our heads swim. 

One thing is certain: Fraud in government-funded programs is huge. Medicare and Medicaid fraud is estimated at $100 billion dollars per year. It is likely more.

Most pharmacists faithfully take care of us, and they are not taking money under the table or filling bogus prescriptions. But the amount of oxycodone, methadone, Roxicodone and Xanax that is available is alarming. Too many doctors are writing too many prescriptions that are not being used by those they intended to help. 

Some people put great faith in government programs. Cases such as this should cause us to consider if such faith is not misplaced.

The birth of Medicare in 1965 significantly changed medical care in America.  It created more demand for medical services. This demand resulted in higher costs for services and larger medical staffs to service this new paradigm, as well as office staff to ensure government compliance was in order. Federal bureaucrats were added to make sure private companies followed the rules. Evidence suggests they did not and are not doing a good job. 

We made a big mistake heading down this road of government intervention a generation ago and now there is no turning back. As each stage gets progressively worse, more government involvement is the proposed solution.  Will we ever learn?

Beware, our next round of government intrusion into the medical services field — more specifically known as Obamacare — likely will result in less personal care, more paperwork, more bureaucracy, and higher direct and indirect (or hidden) costs with citizens becoming more frustrated. This heavy-handed approach likely will result in fewer physicians staying in or entering the medical field.   

When government starts creating big programs with lots of cash involved — whether disability programs, welfare payments, medical care or business subsidies — some citizens (or non-citizens for that matter) will figure out a way to get their hands on the loot, whether they qualify for it or not. Greed is not limited to socio-economic status.

George Michael, who lives in Williamsport, is a former principal of Grace Academy. His email address is gfmichael46@gmail.com.







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