Editorial Pages Critique Bush Rx Drug Benefit Plan
President Bush's "stopgap" plan to send billions of dollars to states to help provide prescription drug coverage for low-income Medicare beneficiaries has generated responses on editorial pages across the country. Here is a summary of some of the opinions:
Washington Post: While noting that Bush's plan is a "reasonable first step," the editorial is critical of the proposal, saying that block grants would "produce a ragged and unsatisfactory result." Because the states do not want even "partial responsibility for Medicare," the Post argues that the Bush plan would set a "bad precedent" by delegating authority to the states. If Congress passes the plan, legislators would be "less likely" to address the structural and "painful long-term funding" questions facing the system. Instead, the Post says the "most efficient" method of providing seniors with drugs would be to add a benefit directly to Medicare (Washington Post, 1/31).
Newsday: Arguing the Bush "doesn't seem very serious" about his interim drug plan, Newsday says that the elderly would be "better serve[d]" by a "comprehensive" Medicare reform package that included a drug benefit. Saying that "half" of the seniors would not receive a benefit under Bush's plan, the editorial predicts the proposal will be "dead on arrival in Congress." The editorial concludes: "Bush should step up with his ideas to remake Medicare. He has signaled a willingness to compromise, but that's not good enough. The ball is in his court. He needs to serve up a real plan" (Newsday, 1/31).
Boston Herald: Because Bush's plan does not cover "everybody regardless of need," the Boston Herald writes that the chances of passing the legislation are "dim." This is a "shame," because the Bush proposal is a "sensible ... first step" in overhauling Medicare. Arguing that "critics" are pushing for the advancement of the "nanny state" by creating a prescription drug "entitlement," the editorial concludes: "It would be a pity if a reform that could benefit people in need were blocked because it did not fit the aims of those who want to make citizens dependent on an all-powerful state and grateful to the party that creates it" (Boston Herald, 1/31).
- USA Today: Calling for more "substantial" Medicare reform, the editorial says that "treating [the] symptom" of prescription costs "won't cure Medicare's broader problems" and may in fact "compound them." If providing drug coverage for seniors is the "goal," the editorial says there are "better solutions" than Bush's block grant proposal. Instead, the editorial proposes expanding Medicaid drug benefits to more low income seniors, which would provide some assistance, without "harming the outlook for reform" of Medicare overall. Noting that a plan for reforming Medicare is "elusive," the editorial call on Bush to provide a solution, "because that's the kind of leadership Medicare demands right now" (USA Today, 1/31).
In an op-ed accompanying the USA Today editorial, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, argues that Bush's block grant plan "does too little and takes too long" to offer prescription assistance to the elderly. Noting that the proposal has "little support" from either party in Congress, Kennedy says that congressional action on drugs is possible in the "short term" by adding a benefit to Medicare and keeping any legislation separate from "more controversial Medicare reforms." Kennedy concludes, "The promise of Medicare will not be realized until Medicare protects senior citizens against the high cost of prescription drugs in the same way that it protects them today against the high cost of hospital care and doctor care" (Kennedy, USA Today, 1/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.