More Lawmakers See Drug Benefit as ‘Work in Progress’
The Knight Ridder/Monterey County Herald on Thursday examined the political implications of the Medicare prescription drug benefit and the belief among lawmakers and the Bush administration that the program "is a work in progress, rather than a finished product." Republicans had expected the drug benefit to be a "political knockout" when the legislation was passed, but confidence in the public's support waned as the program's "flaws and shortcomings were exposed early and often" in its initial months, the Knight Ridder/Herald reports.
However, it now seems that lower-than-anticipated drug costs, higher beneficiary satisfaction rates and the success of recent enrollment efforts have helped the public's view of the new drug benefit. Still, despite what Republicans say are signs of the program's success, the drug benefit could remain a "possible election-year albatross" for the party, and "if the first five months are a sign of what's to come, special-interest groups, lawmakers and concerned seniors will continue to seek changes that GOP lawmakers will likely oppose," according to the Knight Ridder/Herald.
Senators and House members of both parties have proposed legislation that would make changes to the drug benefit, including bills that would eliminate a late-enrollment penalty and would require drug plans to pay pharmacists' claims within a certain timeframe. Both proposals have some bipartisan support, although the Bush administration opposes legislative changes to the drug benefit until final enrollment data are analyzed.
It is also possible that the drug benefit will not play a major role in the November elections, according to the Knight Ridder/Herald (Pugh, Knight Ridder/Monterey County Herald, 5/25).