Helping the Homeless

As snow falls on Boston for the first time this winter and the temperature plunges, homeless people across the city face their most difficult and life-threatening time of year. Citizens Energy President and former Congressman Joseph Kennedy has commendably paved the way for the Safe Haven shelter on Newbury Street to receive free winter heating.

If more community leaders followed Kennedy’s generous example, perhaps homeless men and women would not be found every night sleeping on freezing sidewalks in Kenmore Square or camped out in the BankBoston ATM in Warren Towers. While some students stare straight ahead and walk quickly by, hopefully most feel at least a twinge of sorrow for the down-and-out.

If Kennedy has the time and resources to help those less fortunate, BU students and other Boston residents can do the same, if on a smaller scale. Because of Kennedy’s offer, six mentally ill women will spend this winter in warmth. This is a gesture that may well have saved these women’s lives. A little help goes a long way.

Every corner of the United States is touched by poverty, and attempting to remedy all of it is a daunting task. However, if everyone with the means to help did so, the results would go a long way.

A Plan to Cut Drug Prices

Former congressman Joseph Kennedy II has made a bold proposal to consolidate into a single group all the people in the state who do not have adequate prescription drug coverage. A pharmacy management company would then negotiate deep discounts on their drug purchases. The Cellucci administration needs to determine quickly whether the plan is viable and implement it if it is.

The Legislature, intrigued by the plan, ordered the secretary of administration and finance, Andrew Natsios, to do a study and report back in 60 days. That deadline expires this weekend without a peep so far from Natsios about his findings.

Kennedy would include in his new group anyone on Medicaid, in the state employee system, or on Medicare as long as he or she is not in a comprehensive managed care plan. Kennedy also wants to encourage the uninsured to join.

Based on the expertise his Citizens Energy Corp. has gained in reaching out to the needy, Kennedy is confident that he could assemble a group more than a million strong that would get discounts of 20 to 30 percent from drug manufacturers. This would be comparable to the savings enjoyed by the large managed care organizations. People in the new group could save $150 million a year, and the state, because it buys drugs for Medicaid recipients, might save $20 million.

Kennedy acknowledges that Citizens Energy would earn a fee from their work that might total $1 million. The money would go into its discounted fuel oil program for poor people.

Former governor William Weld, a Republican, joined Democrat Kennedy in supporting the plan. Politics should play no role. If the plan succeeds in Massachusetts, Kennedy and Governor Cellucci will both deserve credit.

Cellucci’s subordinates need to follow through with a thorough and fair analysis. High prescription drug prices are a burden on many people in Massachusetts, and any workable plan to reduce their drug costs ought to go forward.