Seeing the Round Corners

HEADS UP, the new day for Seeing the Round Corners “GOING LIVE” is Tuesday each week.

 August 4, 2020

Today’s column from this writer’s archives is scary on so many fronts. Just think, many of the Congressmen in the column from 2013 are in charge of the debate now going on in Congress – you know, about the renewal or not of the $600.00 additional payment to the state unemployment payments. Seems no one was “awake at the wheel” to realize putting the two payments together would be more than the person made while employed full time!! Sorta throws cold water on incentive to return to their full time job doesn’t it!!

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL                  February 11, 2013                                                                 
The idea that legislators here in Colorado and in Washington are “asleep at the wheel” while voting on legislation is a really scary idea. The sad fact is that most of the time it does not come to the attention of us ordinary citizens until too late.

Back in the 2011 legislative session, House Bill 11-1146 was passed by the General Assembly. The intent of the legislature was to correct abuse in agricultural property valuation in Colorado. Land classified as agricultural is valued at a fraction of property classified as residential.

 In Adams County, former Adams County Assessor Gil Reyes lowered the taxable value of one piece of property owned by the very prominent and wealthy Carlson family from $187,200.00 to $1,660.00 by simply reclassifying it to agricultural. Tax bill: $69.16.

The obvious solution to such abuse would be that the assessors have to require verifiable proof of income derived from agricultural endeavors before reclassifying property to agricultural, but there was no such provision in House Bill 11-1146.

Such dire example of “asleep at the wheel” Washington style is the massive arm twisting in Congress on the “fiscal cliff” bill. With preparations for implementation of the Affordable Care Act now in full swing, big corporations are pulling out all the stops to protect their bottom lines and to stymie efforts to cut health care costs.

Amgen, one of America’s largest biotechnology companies, pleaded guilty in late 2011 to illegally marketing an anti-anemia drug and agreed to pay criminal and civil penalties of $762 million, said to be a record in such a case.

Not to worry what such a settlement would do to their bottom line though, for Amgen’s 74 lobbyists were hard at work in Congress to make up for such a penalty.

Yes, Amgen has 74 lobbyists in Washington hard at work protecting the company from efforts to cut health care costs as provided in the Affordable Care Act, and to recoup as much of that $762 million penalty as possible.

Enter Congress in “asleep at the wheel” mode, eager to avoid that fiscal cliff, with Senators all too willing to help “poor” Amgen, even if most did not know it until the wee hours.

Slipped into the bill meant to avoid the fiscal cliff was a delay on price restraints on a class of drugs (including Sensipar made by Amgen) scheduled to go into effect in 2014. Delaying price restraints on the class of drugs used by kidney dialysis patients (Sensipar is just one) means the Medicare program will pay as much as $500 million MORE over a two-year period.

The delay was slipped into the “fiscal cliff” bill and came to the attention of Congress just hours before voting occurred. Without a delay of pricing restraints, Amgen’s reprieve would have expired in 2014, meaning Sensipar would then be included in the more cost-effective bundle rate.

Here’s how Washington works. Top aides to Senators use the government job as a way of lining up big-time lobbying jobs with corporations such as Amgen. In this case, former chiefs of staff for Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Tennessee) are now currently lobbyists for Amgen.

The path between Congress and corporations/lobbyists is two-way. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has as his top aid a former health policy analyst at Amgen. In part, his responsibility involved negotiating the delay of price restraints on the class of drugs used for kidney dialysis. You gotta love the way these pompous jerks work.

Maybe it breezed right by those Republicans so busy idolizing “watch dog” McConnell, but he was one of the biggies in the fiscal cliff negotiations standing there with a straight face insisting no deal without massive cuts to entitlements, and had the nerve to heap praise on the Medicare provisions of the “fiscal cliff” bill. He just did not disclose it was Amgen who benefited on such a grand scale.

In the for what it’s worth department, Baucus, Hatch and McConnell have all received large contributions from Amgen and its employees:  $68,000.00, $59,000.00 and $73,000.00, respectively.

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