Editorials, Opinion Pieces Examine Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Bill
Recently published editorials and opinion pieces continue to examine the congressional debate over a Medicare prescription drug benefit. Summaries of the editorials and opinion pieces appear below.
Baltimore Sun: Although the proposed prescription drug benefit might be "too miserly and ... expensive" and could "encourage employers to drop" drug benefits for retirees, "doing nothing is not an option," according to a Sun editorial. Lawmakers should "strike the best possible deal, roll the dice and worry about fine-tuning" if the bill passes, the editorial concludes (Baltimore Sun, 6/25).
Chicago Tribune: The Medicare reform debate "has more to do with Campaign 2004 than providing a strong prescription drug benefit," and instead of passing a "politically attractive solution," Congress should "commit to helping" beneficiaries with fixed incomes and "overwhelming prescription costs," a Tribune editorial states (Chicago Tribune, 6/25).
Dallas Morning News: Both the House and Senate versions of legislation to add a Medicare drug benefit are "heading in the right direction," a Morning News editorial says, adding that "[h]elp is on the way" for beneficiaries (Dallas Morning News, 6/25).
Des Moines Register: A Register editorial encourages readers to visit the Web site www.kaisernetwork.org/drugcalculator, where they can estimate their out-of-pocket costs under the current Senate and House drug benefit proposals. Once beneficiaries do that, they can then "decide if it's worth the $400 billion price tag" that the bills would incur (Des Moines Register, 6/25).
Long Island Newsday: Although "any plan may seem better than nothing," both the House and Senate Medicare reform proposals "are a mess," a Newsday editorial states. Beneficiaries would "pay a lot for meager" coverage, "millions of retirees would lose the drug coverage they get from former employers" and it is "unlikely" that private health plans could "turn a profit insuring an elderly, sick population without huge government subsidies," the editorial concludes (Long Island Newsday, 6/25).
Washington Post: The U.S. health care system "in the long run" needs "more competition and more ... innovation," but if legislators are "not prepared to make deeper reforms ... it would be far better to drop the private-sector involvement in the drug benefit for now," a Post editorial states. Congress could pass a "simpler plan," such as one proposed by Reps. Calvin Dooley (D-Calif.) and Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) that would establish negotiated price discounts for seniors, add a benefit for those with high drug costs or low incomes and not include "complicated asset tests" or "gaps in coverage," the Post concludes (Washington Post, 6/25).
Washington Times: "Stable transitions" are necessary in reforming government programs, and "increased spending in the short term" may be needed to "bring about a more market-oriented health care system," according to a Times editorial (Washington Times, 6/25).
- Molly Ivins, Arizona Daily Star: The Senate Medicare prescription drug benefit bill "is incrementally better" than the House version, but Congress should not pass such legislation "if the Senate version is even slightly weakened" by the "repulsive" House version, syndicated columnist Ivins writes in a Daily Star opinion piece (Ivins, Arizona Daily Star, 6/25).
- Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Boston Globe: The Senate Medicare prescription drug benefit bill has "many valid criticisms," but the legislation "gives its best benefits" to low-income beneficiaries and should receive support from lawmakers, Kennedy writes in a Globe opinion piece (Kennedy, Boston Globe, 6/25).
- Dan Thomasson, Scripps Howard/Evansville Courier & Press: The "ridiculously complex Medicare reform action now being considered by Congress may be one of the more irresponsible measures in a long history of cradle-to-grave legislation," columnist Thompson writes in a Scripps Howard/Courier & Press opinion piece (Thompson, Scripps Howard/Evansville Courier & Press, 6/24).
- Jeffrey Birnbaum, Fortune: The "drive" to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare "is among the most popular initiatives to hit Washington in years," but the bills "rolling through Congress are as shortsighted as they are beloved," columnist Birnbaum writes in a Fortune opinion piece (Birnbaum, Fortune, 7/7).
- Trudy Lieberman, The Nation: The debate over a Medicare prescription drug benefit "obscures the real reason Republicans are pushing hard for their brand of reform," which would have private health plans administer the coverage and "get the government out of the Medicare business," Lieberman, director of the Center for Consumer Health Choices at Consumers Union, writes in The Nation opinion piece (Lieberman, The Nation, 7/7).
- Robert Moffit, New York Post: The Senate should "back up" and "take another look" at the Medicare prescription drug benefit plan proposed by President Bush -- a proposal based on the "highly successful" Federal Employees Health Benefits Program -- which would represent "real reform," Moffit, director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, writes in a Post opinion piece (Moffit, New York Post, 6/25).
- Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal: The Medicare prescription drug benefit plan proposed by Bush "sought a drug benefit as a carrot to lure seniors into a new kind of Medicare," but under the House and Senate bills, Medicare reform "has gone out the window," columnist Jenkins writes in a Journal opinion piece (Jenkins, Wall Street Journal, 6/25).
- Anne Applebaum, Washington Post: Lawmakers have compromised on Medicare prescription drug benefit legislation only because they "looked closely at the political calendar" and decided that they must "pass a bill, any bill, before the next election," columnist Applebaum writes in a Post opinion piece. Applebaum adds that lawmakers "who favor real Medicare reform should abandon their narrow-minded, shortsighted bipartisanship and cease trying to compromise with those who don't" (Applebaum, Washington Post, 6/25).
- Robert Goldberg, Washington Times: The Medicare prescription drug benefit legislation in Congress "hardly looked like a victory" to people who support reducing the government role in health care, but a "light is beginning to shine" as lawmakers are "beginning to realize that simply pouring money into the same old Medicare is not only bad policy, it is bad politics," Goldberg, director of the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute, writes in a Times opinion piece (Goldberg, Washington Times, 6/25).