Syn-crony-icity

In the Lansing (NY) Star a few days ago:

Tompkins County residents should be watching their mailboxes for their new Tompkins County Prescription Drug Discount Card, a card that provides significant savings on brand-name and generic prescription drugs. The discount cards are being mailed next week to more than 42,000 addresses in Tompkins County. 
 
Tompkins County government is partnering with ProAct, Inc. to provide uninsured and underinsured residents with the free pharmacy benefits discount card, at no cost to the County. Most prescription drugs are covered, with discounts ranging from 10-20% on brand-name drugs and 20-70% for generics. 
 
"In these tough economic times, it's exciting and gratifying to offer county residents an easy way to save money on their prescription medications," says Frank Proto, Chair of the County Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee. "The new ProAct drug card will be hitting mailboxes the week of August 19th. Keep alert! Please use the card both locally and nationwide..."
Hmmm...so what's in it for ProAct?  Don't they compete with firms such as Medco?
 
Questions like that are good ones for people to ask as a matter of course whenever there are "public-private partnerships"...because such "teamwork" oftren runs counter to free markets.
 
There's a resource available to those who value free markets, Crony Chronicles. It's got lots of useful links, like this one to a little book entitled, The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won't Tell You. The distinction between a free-market system and cronyism is made on pg. 9:
...Sadly, “crony capitalism” is a term that can with increasing accuracy also be applied to the economy of the United States, a country in which failed firms are routinely “bailed out” with money taken from taxpayers, in which the national capital is little more than a gigantic pulsating hive of “rent-seeking” lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians, consultants, and hacks, and in which appointed officials of the Treasury Department and the central bank (the Federal Reserve System) take it on themselves to reward some firms and harm others. Such corrupt cronyism shouldn’t be confused with “free-market capitalism,” which refers to a system of production and exchange that is based on the rule of law, on equality of rights for all, on the freedom to choose, on the freedom to trade, on the freedom to innovate, on the guiding discipline of profits and losses, and on the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors, of one’s savings, of one’s investments, without fearing confiscation or restriction from those who have invested, not in production of wealth, but in political power.
And from another link at the site on the topic of health care and cronyism:
...The healthcare industry is rife with examples of cronyism. While much of the industry thrives because people genuinely desire medical services, there is also more than a little cronyism occurring behind the scenes. Much of this cronyism takes the form of people trying to shut down competing services, leaving consumers with fewer options and potentially higher prices to pay...
Yes, it's hard to escape the law of unintended consequences.
 
And if all this sounds a little esoteric and difficult for many people to apply to their everyday lives, maybe this will help:
 
 
 
Ouch.
 
There's so much of this stuff going on at every level of government that it's hard to stay on top of it all.
 
But as someone once said, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
 

Comments

Comment: 
"ProAct is a wholly owned subsidiary of New York-based Kinney Drugs, a 100-year-old business that operates a chain of pharmacies." This is a capitalist marketing gimmick, designed to bring profitable customers into participating pharmacies. The county government's endorsement is invaluable. For more on how the scheme works: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2012/aug/13/county-residents-or-without-insurance-eligible-pre/ And not without controversy: http://www.lohud.com/article/20120807/NEWS02/308060085/Rob-Astorino-photo-Westchester-drug-card-irks-some-Democratic-legislators

Comment: 
Thanks, South!

Comment: 
How does this work? Who is paying for this benefit if not the county?

Comment: 
Ed, check out the Las Vegas Sun link in my previous comment. Participating pharmacies offer the discount on certain prescription drugs as an incentive to get uninsured folks into the store, where they might also pick up other, more profitable products. With increasing competition from generics, some manufacturers of off-patent name brand drugs are actually giving out percent-off coupons. We can't imagine that anyone on the TC Leg. is aware that they are facilitating in a profit-making scheme.

Comment: 
Sorry, I missed out on the article links. They no longer work. One more question. I understand Kinney trying to drive business to Kinney outlets, but the card I received in the mail makes it seem as though there are many participating pharmacies in the county, and not just Kinney. Is this deceptive or are the benefits also good at competing pharmacies?

Comment: 
Another problem is the print at the bottom of the card that it does not work with existing insurance or cards. In other words, these cards are worthless for thousands of people who have employer based on individual drug plan coverage. Instead of mailing cards to everyone, wouldn't it have been better if the county had just asked people who were interested to apply for one?

Comment: 
But then adults would be expected to act like adults, Publius, and in the nanny state, adults must be encouraged to be like children who need to be taken care of....