California Healthline Features Editorials, Opinion Pieces on Medicare Legislation
Several recently published editorials and opinion pieces address the Medicare bill (HR 1) passed in Congress and expected to be signed by President Bush as early as Monday. Summaries appear below.
San Diego Union-Tribune: "Adding $400 billion over 10 years to the cost of a government insurance program predicted to go broke in 20 years may be a good political move," but it is "a lousy financial move," a Union-Tribune editorial states. The editorial concludes, "Let's hope the private-sector reforms succeed" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/3).
- St. Petersburg Times: News that CMS Administrator Tom Scully, who helped draft the Medicare bill, is seeking a job in private-sector companies that will "likely profit" from the reform package "gives Americans another good reason to distrust this legislation," which many Medicare beneficiaries already believed to be "written more to benefit drug makers and insurance companies than retirees," a Times editorial states (St. Petersburg Times, 12/4).
- Bill Leonard, Des Moines Register: The Medicare legislation has "betrayed" the "millions of Americans who in good faith paid into ... Medicare ... through the years" because it gives drug makers "total free rein" to charge "whatever they please"; changes Medicare "from health insurance to welfare" by implementing means testing; and perpetuates disparities in fund allocations to states' rural hospitals, columnist Leonard writes in a Register opinion piece (Leonard, Des Moines Register, 12/4).
- Roanne Weisman, Hartford Courant: The "Medicare drug crisis" could be solved if seniors "take fewer pills" and try alternatives, such as "lifestyle changes, acupuncture, herbs, movement and manipulative therapies," Weisman, who co-wrote a book about alternative medicine, writes in a Courant opinion piece. Such options are "cheaper and, for many people, at least as effective as expensive prescription drugs," Weisman states (Weisman, Hartford Courant, 12/4).
- Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Manchester Union Leader: The Medicare bill "started as a prescription drug plan for seniors" but became "a payoff to special interest groups involved in Medicare reform," Hagel, who voted against the bill, writes in a Union Leader opinion piece. While a Medicare prescription drug plan is necessary, "it must be an honest, responsible plan that can be paid for and sustained by the next generation," and it should not be driven by election politics, he concludes (Hagel, Manchester Union Leader, 12/4).
- Newt Gingrich, New Haven Register: The Medicare reform package may help the federal government and states avoid "a collision course with fiscal reality" brought on by "spiraling health care costs," former House Speaker Gingrich (R-Ga.) writes in a Register opinion piece. He states that the creation of health savings accounts -- the "single most important change in health care policy in 60 years" -- will "help bring affordable coverage to the uninsured and revolutionize long-term care" and that prescription drug discount cards, which will be implemented in 2004, have "enormous" cost savings potential (Gingrich, New Haven Register, 12/3).
- Bill Novelli, Wall Street Journal: Despite criticism of AARP's support for the Medicare bill, the group "made the right decision," AARP CEO Novelli writes in a Journal opinion piece. "AARP supported this legislation for one reason only -- it will provide important prescription drug coverage and financial relief for millions of current and future Medicare beneficiaries," Novelli writes. He says that while critics have said AARP "acted without consulting" its 35 million members, the group, on the contrary, responded to members who "told us they were tired of waiting for ... the perfect bill." Addressing allegations that AARP supported the bill "to accrue financial benefit," Novelli writes, "Our social mission drives our for-profit activities -- not the other way around." Novelli concludes by saying that AARP will now work to "strengthen Medicaid coverage" by improving the new legislation and advocating the purchase of lower-cost drugs from Canada (Novelli, Wall Street Journal, 12/4).
- Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Washington Post: While "congressional Democrats are unhappy that the White House and the Republican Party will try to steal the Medicare stage with the passage of recent legislation," Democrats are chiefly concerned that the bill will spend "billions not to reform Medicare but to dismantle it," Durbin writes in a Post letter to the editor in response to David Von Drehle's Nov. 26 article, "For Democrats, A Wake-Up Call" (Durbin, Washington Post, 12/4).