The Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition, 2007 definition of commodify is as follows:  “to treat as or make into a mere commodity to be bought and sold or to be used in selling something else.” It is high time that we began to talk about the increasing treatment of various groups of people in the United States as commodities.  African American men are supplied to Correction Corporation of America to fill its prison cells and produce profits for investors at no apparent benefit to society.  College students and their families have become fodder for the banking industry (many of us can remember when college loans were made by the federal government and more Pell grants were available).  Examples abound of legislation designed for legislative transformation of human subpopulations into revenue streams for private enterprise.  Medicare, Part D, the subject of this post, is a sterling example of legislation for commodification of a demographic group.

The Bush Administration and Republicans did not pass a prescription drug benefit because they wanted to do something nice for the elderly.  This so-called benefit forces persons 65 and over to purchase insurance coverage for overpriced prescription drugs.  It is a mechanism for fleecing the elderly on behalf of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

 Perhaps at age 65 you will not need one or more prescription drugs on a regular basis.  If you do not have an ongoing need for one or more prescribed drugs and fail to sign up, the penalty for that decision will be a 1% per month penalty for each month past the age of 65 to the age at which you actually have a need for the benefit.  This means that you will be assessed this 1% per month on top of any premium you pay at the time you need prescription drug coverage.  For instance, in the Lawrence area, the cheapest insurance available will cost you about $30 per month (this is with rather high copay).  You can either choose to pay some insurance company, e.g. Cigna, Humana, etc, at least $30 per month – even if you do not now and will not for many years need an expensive prescription drug – or else incur a hefty penalty at some future date.

Also, the lobbying power of the pharmaceutical industry has insured that your copays and deductibles will be for drugs that cost double and even triple that paid for the same drugs by residents of Canada, the United Kingdom, and other European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand.  The law enacting Part D bars the federal government from exerting its purchasing power in negotiating with drug companies – negotiation is a violation of the law.

Given its arcane rules and complicated processes, Part D looks, on its surface, bizarre, stupid, and downright irrational.  Look deeper.  The real purpose makes a lot of sense – to “big Pharma,” the insurance industry, and their political hacks in congress.  The purpose of this law is to squeeze the 65+ population for as much of their retirement benefits and savings as possible.