Campaign Promise To Go Unfulfilled?
Surprise, surprise! The Democratic Party's pie-in-the-sky plan to "fix" the Medicare prescription-benefit program might not be so feasible. From "Success of Drug Plan Challenges Democrats" in the Sunday, November 26, 2006 edition of the Washington Post:
It sounded simple enough on the campaign trail: Free the government to negotiate lower drug prices and use the savings to plug a big gap in Medicare's new prescription-drug benefit. But as Democrats prepare to take control of Congress, they are struggling to keep that promise without wrecking a program that has proven cheaper and more popular than anyone imagined.Tell the AARP, staunch supporters of the Democratic Party, that they've been had on this one. Oh, never mind:
House Democrats have vowed to act quickly after taking power in January to lift a ban on Medicare negotiations with drugmakers, which they hope will save as much as $190 billion over a decade. But House leaders have yet to settle on a strategy and acknowledge that negotiation is, in any case, unlikely to generate sufficient savings to fill the "doughnut hole," the much-criticized gap in coverage that forces millions of seniors to pay 100 percent of drug costs for a few weeks or months each year....
"This is going to be much more of a morass than people think," said Marilyn Moon, director of the health program at the American Institutes for Research and a former trustee of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Negotiating drug prices is "a feel-good kind of answer, but it's not one that is easy to imagine how you put into practice."
The Medicare drug benefit, one of the Bush administration's signature domestic programs, was created in 2003 and took effect in January....The cost of the program has been lower than expected...
For now, it is not clear how aggressively Democrats are willing to push price negotiation. Ideas range from simply repealing the ban on negotiations -- which would accomplish little if the Bush administration refuses to negotiate -- to creating a separate, government-run Medicare drug program with strong negotiating power.
Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.), who is in line to become chairman of a key health subcommittee, said he prefers a middle path, with Medicare setting ceilings from which private insurers could negotiate downward.
But Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the incoming Senate Finance chairman, is cool to the idea of government negotiation, and has committed only to holding hearings to "determine what the result would be of eliminating" the no-negotiation clause.
John C. Rother, policy director for AARP, the powerful lobby for elderly Americans, said he has no doubt that the next Congress will give government some role in negotiating Medicare drug prices.Sure, Mr. Rother. Just keep on believing that. After all, "Hillary Care" worked out too, didn't it?
"This is an idea that's favored by 90 percent of the American public," Rother said. "It's not like you have to convince the American public that this is a good idea."