If John Shadegg Wants People to Take Him Seriously, He Should Give Drug Companies Their Money Back


Next time Congressman John Shadegg holds a town hall meeting, remind me to clothespin my nose.

What's wafting from the Republican pol is the stench of hypocrisy.

True to what you've been seeing nonstop on the TV news lately, his August 8 town hall on healthcare was full to burstin' with alter kockers mad as hell that Barack Obama's about to shove communism down their gullets and make them give up the socialized medicine of Medicare and VA benefits for the socialized medicine of what they call "Obamacare."

In other words, it was a relatively friendly, conservative crowd for Shadegg. Never mind that there really is no such thing as Obama­care, yet. There is a House of Representatives bill 3200 (among several others) that — if you really bother to read it, as these crazed Republinuts say they have — is full of such frightening concepts as "prohibiting pre-existing condition exclusions," "requiring fair market practices by health insurers," and "timely payment of claims."

Oooh, scary.

Why, who needs that hooey when we can have medical costs through the roof and close to 46 million Americans uninsured? But I digress.

One woman espoused her worry over what lowbrow job-quitter Sarah Palin calls the Obama "death panels." Of course, there are no such things. The now-infamous Section 1233 of H.R. 3200 simply provides for "advance care planning consultation." That means a conversation with a physician concerning living wills, power of attorney, orders for life-sustaining treatment, and other stuff we should all generally know about.

Such consultations have been proposed in the past by Republicans like Newt Gingrich. But now the GOP sees a benefit in scaring the bejesus out of seniors, or at least in not calming their fears.

The latter is what Shadegg did when the woman asked him about what would happen to her when she was near to croakin'.

"What is going to happen to people like me, who are retired?" she wondered, adding, "We are going to be counseled on how to end our lives because the money will be taken from us."

She went on to describe how "people with disabilities, children with disabilities, their parents will be counseled on how to end their child's life."

But Shadegg didn't lay these unnecessary worries to rest, worries based on a crude misinterpretation of one bill's provision.

"I can give you no assurance that the plan you have will continue to be in effect and applied to you as it applies now, if this bill becomes law," replied Shadegg.

That, of course, didn't answer her concern. Nor did it tell her the truth, like, "Hey, lady, no one's gonna tell you to off yourself. And no one's gonna take away your health insurance."

Rather, Shadegg said the equivalent of, "Don't ask me if the sun's gonna rise tomorrow. What do I look like, a psychic?"

Shadegg basically milked the preconceived notions of the crowd. Generally, he was rewarded with applause.

Like when he went off on a report in the media that drug companies were planning to back healthcare reform in TV ads. That much is true. But Shadegg's outrage over it is more than disingenuous.

"America's pharmaceutical industry is running," Shadegg told his audience, "I believe, somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million — maybe $50 million — worth of advertisements this August promoting Obamacare. You're paying for it. I'm paying for it."

Dr. Shadegg's prescription for the problem? "Unload on the drug companies." That is, pepper drug companies and lobbying arms such as PhRMA (the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) with angry e-mails and letters.

"They stand to get rich out of the government funding healthcare in America," the congressman said. "This is a conflict of interest. Those advertisements are an outrage."

Conflict of interest? How about this for a conflict of interest:

According to his filings with the Federal Election Commission, Congressman Shadegg has so far accepted about $48,500 in contributions for his 2010 re-election effort from healthcare-related PACs.

A preferred provider (PPO) PAC gave him $2,000. AFLAC slipped him $2,000. The PAC for Pfizer — one of those big drug companies that's a member of the PhRMA lobby? Shadegg scored $1,000 from it. The list goes on and on, from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons ($2,500) to a PAC for urologists ($1,000).

And the fundraising for 2010 hasn't even hit full steam. A better indicator of what Shadegg may eventually raise for 2010 are his filings for 2008, the last time he ran. The total amount given from committees related to doctors, insurance companies, and drug companies? A whopping $166,000.

Yep, in 2008, Shadegg practically took a bath in $1,000 bills from the healthcare industry. Eli Lilly, another member of PhRMA, put $1,000 in the kitty. Pfizer ponied up $4,000 in 2008. He pulled in $2,000 from CIGNA, $2,000 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona, $5,000 from Physician Hospitals of America, $5,000 from the cataract PAC (I'm guessing they're anti-cataracts). You can see the list at the FEC's Web site, just by looking at "Other Committees Contributions" for Shadegg's file.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons