New Medicare Law Fails Seniors, Daschle States in Opinion Piece
With the new Medicare law and other recent events, the nation's health care system has been "slanted in favor of the HMOs and big drug companies at the expense of regular Americans," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) writes in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece. An 18-month pilot project included in the law that that gives 50,000 Medicare beneficiaries selected by lottery prescription drug coverage for some of their most expensive treatments "is the most literal and unseemly example of how the [Bush] administration has created a health care system of winners and losers," Daschle writes (Daschle, Houston Chronicle, 7/1). Under the project, which has a budget of $500 million and will run until 2006, Medicare will pay for 11 cancer medications and about 25 at-home treatments for diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson estimates that some 500,000 to 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries with no other drug coverage will be eligible as one of the 50,000 participants, who the federal government will select at random (California Healthline, 6/25).
Daschle writes that the pilot program is "good news" for the selected seniors; however, "other seniors who need help just as badly will have to wait two years." Daschle continues that the Medicare drug discount card program offers little savings and "has been a failure for most seniors." In addition, Daschle writes that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting patients' ability to file lawsuits against HMOs in state court will allow HMOs, not doctors, to "get the final word" on health care decisions. Daschle writes, "We need to go back to the drawing board" and design a prescription drug bill for seniors, pass bipartisan legislation that allows the reimportation of lower-cost prescription drugs from other nations, and pass a patients' bill of rights that will "hold ... HMOs accountable for denying necessary medical care." He concludes, "Last week's prescription drug lottery was a troubling metaphor for the new rules for health care in this country. It's time to take a new direction before it's too late" (Houston Chronicle, 7/1).