The "Collectinator" has done a
far better job of collecting campaign cash for himself from
pharmaceutical companies – over $290,000 in checks cashed – than he has
collecting money reportedly owed California taxpayers by pharmaceutical
giants (known collectively as Big Pharma).
A recent Bush Administration audit found that California could not
account for the $1.3 billion in drug rebates from Big Pharma that the
state had previously reported to federal regulators – money owed the
state under the rules of a 1990 federal drug rebate law. Arnold’s team
responded by saying that it was "only" an $800 million debt due to the
state, but they are overdue in explaining this half-a-billion dollar
disagreement. More importantly, they haven’t demonstrated that they
have collected any of the cash.
The state bean counters seem to be having as much trouble keeping track
of staff as they are collecting the dough. According to today’s
Sacramento Bee, state regulators blamed staff reductions for delaying
the collection of rebates. But what budget hawk would cut staff from a
program whose job it is to collect more than a billion dollars a year
in money owed to the state? The truth is that last year the department
was given 11 new staff to collect long-overdue rebates. ArnoldWatch
tipsters tell us, however, that Arnold took those mini-collectinators
off the beat, reassigning them to other projects.
What is the governor hiding?
We have submitted a Public Records Act Request for all documents
pertaining to the state’s MediCal drug rebate program. In the name of
thousands of poor and disabled MediCal patients who have been told that
the state can no longer afford to pay for their health care coverage,
which costs roughly $800 million, the gov. should provide a complete
accounting of the state’s drug deals. Taxpayers deserve to know why
drug firms are not paying what is supposed to be their obligation. Be
it bureaucratic ineptitude, political pandering or some of both – the
voters deserves a full and fair accounting of the numbers from Arnold,
who promised to be the Sunshine Governor.
(Last week, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR)
released an analysis of similar programs in 46 states and the District
of Columbia showing that California had performed "far below average"
in tracking and collecting rebates. The FTCR state-by-state analysis is
available at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/healthcare/rp/Audit_analysis.pdf The Office of Inspector General audit is available at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/healthcare/rp/California_MediCal_Audit.pdf)