Rep. Mike Ross — a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate — sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment and an independent appraisal say it was worth. The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.
Ross sold the real estate in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 — an eye-popping number for real estate in the tiny train-and-lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock. “You can buy half the town for $420,000,” said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.
But the $420,000 was just the beginning of what Ross and his pharmacist wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly’s Health Mart. The owner of USA Drug, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets and paid Holly Ross another $100,000 to $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement. Those numbers, which Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million.
Well, that’s certainly cozy, isn’t it? And totally predictable.
Right and left alike have been getting fat off the healthcare gravy train for years. Remember former King Pharmaceuticals CEO John Gregory pouring a river of money into Republican coffers?
(And by the way, how weird is it that two of the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud scandals in U.S. history involve Tennessee companies? Nashville's Columbia/HCA paid $840 million in fines and penalties for ripping off Medicare and Medicaid; Bristol, TN-based King Pharmaceuticals paid $124 million plus interest for defrauding various government agenices, including the VA. Support the troops!)
Disgusting. Frankly, I’m pissed off that we’re being told how the only thing the for-profit healthcare system needs is a little “competition” to fix its many ills. The problem is far worse than that. A neutered public option isn't going to do jack shit to solve the healthcare crisis in this country. The problem, as this rather wonky study in “Health Affairs” makes clear, is the prices, stupid. We're paying too much--more than any other industrialized country. We're getting less--less than any other industrialized country. We're being ripped off on a daily basis. Money flows out of our bank accounts and into the coffers of healthcare companies, with a little diverted off the side to buy off politicians and the national and state political parties. As the saying goes, where there’s shit, there’s always flies.
No wonder no one feels inclined to change the system. Adding some much-needed comedy to this tragedy are the farcical Tea Shouters, those deluded losers fighting to save a system that serves no one save the crooks and liars who stacked the deck against us to begin with. Feh.