Medicare Drug Benefit Beholden to Special Interests, Krugman Writes
The new Medicare law is "an object lesson in how special interests hold America's health care system hostage," columnist Paul Krugman writes in a New York Times opinion piece. The "haste with which key players in the drug bill's passage cashed in" makes their "claims that they wrote a pharma-friendly Medicare bill out of genuine concern for the public's welfare look ludicrous," Krugman continues.
Krugman cites as an example former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), "who shepherded the drug bill through when he was a member of Congress" and now earns an estimated $2 million annually as head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. In addition, former CMS administrator Tom Scully received a "special waiver from the ethics rules" to "negotiate for a future health industry lobbying job at the very same time he was pushing the drug bill," Krugman notes.
The new Medicare law is "a corrupt deal passed by a corrupt system, ... [a]nd it was a very expensive deal indeed," Krugman says. He adds that according to Medicare trustees, "the fiscal gap over the next 75 years created by the new law -- not the financing gap for Medicare as a whole, just the additional gap created by the legislation created 18 months ago -- will be $8.7 trillion."
Krugman writes that he has a "suggestion for Mr. Bush. One way to prove that he's really sincere about addressing long-run fiscal problems, that his calls for benefit cuts aren't just part of an ideological agenda, would be to put Social Security aside for a while and fix his own Medicare program" (Krugman, New York Times, 5/6).