More Compassion, GOP Style
Patients who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid are the ones most likely to see their drug regimens rudely interrupted by the money-lovin' bureacracy springing forth from our plagued public health system like a thunderbolt from the side of Zeus. Of those six million so-called dual eligibles, two million are mentally ill and vulnerable to interruptions in their drug treatment.
This was, of course, entirely predictable. Changing the Pill-ocracy would've been disruptive enough even if every mentally ill patient in America had an advocate, but in a patchwork healthcare system lacking patient advocacy, it is nothing short of disastrous. Those who need the most assistance navigating the healthcare system are the ones least likely to get it.
Since the prescription program made its debut Jan. 1, some of the estimated 2 million mentally ill Americans covered because they receive both Medicare and Medicaid have gone without the drugs that keep their delusions, paranoia, anxieties or stress in check. Mental health service providers and advocacy organizations nationwide say they worry that scores are at high risk of relapse. Numerous people have been hospitalized."The continuation of medications is absolutely critical to keep them in community living," said Steven S. Sharfstein, chief executive of the Shepherd-Pratt Health System in Baltimore and president of the American Psychiatric Association.
Luckily for the malAdministration, the diagnosed mentally ill - particularly those on Medicaid - are fringe folk in our society, citizens rendered invisible thanks to their murky status as consumers. They don't make much of a voting bloc, either. Don't contribute to PACs. Don't have "news" media celebrities looking out on their collective behalf. Their stories - tales of frustration, incompetence and indifference; tales of despair, suicide and, in all likelihood, homicide - will go largely untold.
By this time next year, George W. Bush have another State of the Union address behind him, no doubt having bragged that his hallowed prescription program healed the sick and raised the dead. Republicans will stand and cheer, and the claim will come and go without criticism from the sychophant media or weak-kneed, apathetic Democrats.
In the interim, The Script be damned, Dr. Sharfstein anticipates major problems:
"I really don't know what the future will bring. . . . I have a very deep concern that psychiatric patients will suffer disproportionately," Sharfstein said. "If by the end of February or March, if [federal officials] haven't figured this out, we could have an epidemic on our hands."