Editorials, Opinion Pieces Address Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Debate
Several editorials and opinion pieces published recently examine the congressional debate over a Medicare prescription drug benefit. Summaries of the editorials and opinion pieces appear below.
Billings Gazette: Congress should include in its Medicare legislation recommendations by the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee to address so-called geographic disparities in Medicare payments and the payment system for providers, a Gazette editorial states. The editorial concludes, "It's time to put an end to ... regional disparities" in Medicare reimbursement rates and halt an anticipated provider payment reduction (Billings Gazette, 7/2).
Des Moines Register: A Medicare prescription drug benefit "isn't really necessary" for most seniors because a "vast majority" of them already have drug coverage, but creating such a benefit "is a way for lawmakers to let voting seniors know they haven't been forgotten," a Register editorial states. The editorial concludes, "Let's see how those seniors feel in a few years when millions of them have lost their employer-sponsored prescription drug benefit after a Medicare benefit is enacted" (Des Moines Register, 7/3).
- Gus Cardenas, Dallas Morning News: The means-testing provision in the House bill "could result in big changes that would undermine Medicare even as we seek to improve it," Cardenas, president of the Texas chapter of AARP, writes in a Morning News opinion piece. He concludes, "So, even as we applaud Congress for finally taking us to the brink of a meaningful prescription drug benefit, we must not undermine the fundamental strength of Medicare by subjecting the coverage to means testing" (Cardenas, Dallas Morning News, 7/3).
- Dr. Ana Malinow, Dallas Morning News: Although "there is no question that Medicare's benefit package needs to be updated," privatization is not the solution to the situation, Malinow, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and co-founder of Health Care for All Texas, writes in a Morning News opinion piece. Although proponents of using private plans say the private plans encourage competition and reduce costs in the open market, Malinow notes that Medicare's per beneficiary average spending rate has increased 9.6% per year since 1970, compared to an 11.1% per member spending growth rate for private insurers. Malinow concludes, "The real focus of Medicare reform shouldn't be to subsidize private insurance companies. Congress should move to strengthen an honorable program by becoming more, not less, involved" (Malinow, Dallas Morning News, 7/3).
- Jack Kemp, Investor's Business Daily: "There is great reason to worry that whatever version of 'reform' emerges from" the conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate Medicare bills, "harm will be done," Kemp, a syndicated columnist and co-director of Empower America, writes in an Investor's Business Daily opinion piece. According to Kemp, the bills' $400 billion expense marks the return of "big government," and the subsidies for beneficiaries included in the bills would also create an "incentive to overconsume health care." Kemp states that the conference committee "would be wise" to ensure that seniors have access to a "basic safety-net health care package" that covers routine and preventive care with affordable copayments and deductibles combined with catastrophic coverage (Kemp, Investor's Business Daily, 7/3).