Citizens for Better Medicare
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
Citizens for Better Medicare (CBM) calls itself "a grassroots organization representing the interests of patients, seniors, disabled Americans, large and small businesses, pharmaceutical research companies and many others concerned with Medicare reform." Public Citizen calls it "a collection of shills, seedy direct-mail operatives and industry-funded research and lobby groups working in tight coordination with the drug lobby."
A coalition founded and largely financed by the pharmaceutical industry, CBM has sponsored television and newspaper ads that lobby against efforts to add a drug benefit to Medicare. Several ads feature "Flo," an arthritic bowler who warns Congress not to let "big government" into her medicine cabinet. Another ad portrays a tour bus en route from Canada to the US in search of a better deal on prescription drugs. (Actually, US citizens, in large numbers, cross the borders - often on special bus tours - to Canada and Mexico to buy drugs.)
In her book The Truth About the Drug Companies, Dr. Marcia Angell writes:
- Formed in 1999, the group spent an estimated $65 million in the 1999-200 election campaign fighting against any form of drug price regulation. Its executive director, Tim Ryan, had been PhRMA's advertising director. Members of the "coalition" also had ties to big pharma. United Seniors Association (USA--get it?), for instance, spent about $18 million on "issue ads" in the 2002 election, all of which supported PhRMA positions. Reportedly, its ads were put together by none other than Tim Ryan. (p. 201)
- CBM's original director was Tim Ryan, a former marketing director for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
- Nona Wegner is CBM's current executive director and a registered lobbyists for the group. Wegner has represented other industry front groups including the Seniors Coalition and the Council for Affordable Health Insurance.
According to the CBM web site, "Members of Citizens for Better Medicare include the:
- Kidney Cancer Association
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- United Seniors Association
as well as more than 300,000 individual supporters.
Public Citizen says that PhRMA "budgeted at least $65 million for television advertising since July 1999" through CBM.
P.O. Box 34337
Washington, DC 20043
Articles & sources
- John McCoy, "Citizens for Better Medicare: The Truth Behind the Drug Industry's Deception of America's Seniors", Public Citizen, June 2000.
- APCO Worldwide, "Citizens for Better Medicare, The Holmes Report, undated, accessed December 2004.
- Thomas B. Edsall, "High Drug Prices Return as Issue That Stirs Voters," Washington Post, October 15, 2002, A8.
- Bob Young and Michael Surrusco, "Other Drug War", Public Citizen Congress Watch, July 2001
- Larry Lipman, "Political Groups Woo Seniors," Atlanta Journal and Constitution, November 1, 2002, 17A.