Editorials, Opinion Pieces Examine Congressional Debate Over Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
Several editorials and opinion pieces published recently address the congressional debate over a Medicare prescription drug benefit. Summaries of the editorials and opinion pieces appear below.
Orlando Sentinel: House and Senate members "will have to be willing to compromise on key differences" in their Medicare prescription drug benefit bills, but several provisions in the Senate bill "deserve to be approved as is by the House," such as provisions that would restore eligibility for federal health programs to documented immigrant children and pregnant women and would restore adequate government reimbursements for prescription drugs to treat "very rare" diseases, according to a Sentinel editorial (Orlando Sentinel, 6/24).
Portland Press Herald: The Senate Medicare prescription drug benefit bill "offers a way past the gridlock," although the legislation "only partially solves the problem many seniors have affording pricey medications," according to a Press Herald editorial (Portland Press Herald, 6/21).
San Diego Union-Tribune: The "need for prescription drug coverage under Medicare is huge," and "there will be no better time" to pass a bill than this year, according to a Union Tribune editorial. The legislation under consideration in Congress has "a lot of imperfection," but "there is nothing to stop the Congress from coming back in better times to improve the benefits and to implement the necessary long-term financial reforms," the editorial states (San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/23).
- Syracuse Post-Standard: A Medicare prescription drug benefit, "even an imperfect one, is better than nothing," but for Congress and President Bush "to claim credit for this munificence without an inkling of where the money will come from to pay for it is the height of political irresponsibility," a Post-Standard editorial states (Syracuse Post-Standard, 6/20).
- Dr. Ana Malinow, Houston Chronicle: Medicare "needs to be updated" to include a prescription drug benefit, but reform also should "focus on improving the quality and efficiency" of Medicare, eliminating regional disparities, promoting effective care and patient safety, reducing under- and overutilization, providing coordinated care and addressing "burdensome regulations and paperwork," Malinow, a Houston physician and co-founder of Health Care for All Texas, writes in a Chronicle opinion piece (Malinow, Houston Chronicle, 6/23).
- Maxine Shapiro, MPR's "Marketplace Morning Report": Commentator Shapiro discusses potential problems with the House and Senate Medicare prescription drug benefit bills, which she maintains would not provide beneficiaries with the lowest prices for medications (Viegland, "Marketplace Morning Report," MPR, 6/23). The full segment is available in RealPlayer online.
- Arthur Bonito, Raleigh News & Observer: "Despite all the media hoopla," the Senate Medicare prescription drug benefit bill "achieves only one of the needed improvements to Medicare" -- the addition of "catastrophic coverage for the tiny portion of Medicare beneficiaries who spend more than $5,800 a year on prescription drugs," Bonito, director of the Program on Health Care Organization, Delivery and Access at RTI International, writes in a News & Observer opinion piece (Bonito, Raleigh News & Observer, 6/24).
- Susan Brink, U.S. News & World Report: A Medicare prescription drug benefit enacted this year "could take a long while to take effect, and what's more, it might open as many gaps as it closes," columnist Brink writes in a U.S. News opinion piece (Brink, U.S. News & World Report, 6/30).
- Mortimer Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report: The United States "is the only industrialized nation that still doesn't provide its senior citizens with comprehensive insurance coverage for prescription drugs," a "policy without a purpose" in "both human and fiscal terms," Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News, writes in an opinion piece (Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report, 6/30).
- Andrew Rettenmaier/Thomas Saving, Wall Street Journal: Congress should "think carefully" about the effect of an "indefinite" commitment to a Medicare prescription drug benefit because "it is possible that the bill that is passed will add prescription drug benefits with little or no net offsets in other Medicare spending," Rettenmaier, executive director of the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M University, and Saving, a public trustee of the Medicare and Social Security Trust Funds and the director of the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M University, write in a Journal opinion piece (Rettenmaier/Saving, Wall Street Journal, 6/24).
- E.J. Dionne, Washington Post: Senate Democrats are "confused as to where they should stand on the Medicare prescription drug bill" because the their "two lions on health care issues" -- Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) -- are "pushing their colleagues in opposite directions," columnist E.J. Dionne writes in a Post opinion piece (Dionne, Washington Post, 6/24).