During this year’s political campaign, Republicans accused the Democrats of having no ideas other than opposition to whatever President Bush is for. To counter that perception, Nancy Pelosi announced a legislative program the centerpieces of which were raising the minimium wage (how’s that for an original idea?) and freeing the government to negotiate lower drug prices in connection with Medicare’s new prescription-drug benefit. To say that this agenda was no “Contract with America” would be to understate its banality. Implementing these agenda items and the one or two others that went with it would take perhaps two weeks. But that was one of its virtues, since the Dems would then be free to move on to the happy business of issuing subpoenas and hauling administration officials to Capitol Hill for grilling.
But it turns out that the Democrats face what the Washington Post calls a “challenge” when it comes to reforming President Bush’s prescription drug benefit plan — the plan is too successful as it is. According to the Post, the plan has enrolled 22.5 seniors more than 80 percent of whom are satisfied with it. This is true even though though many selected plans that contain a “doughnut hole” — there is no coverage when a senior’s drug costs are between $2,250 and $3,600 in a year. The Dems want to close that hole and they intend to pay for this by having the government use its buying power to force drug companies to offer lower prices.
But the Post reports that the Bush program is already costing less than projected and that it’s far from clear that the “negotiations” the Democrats contemplate (“price-control lite,” it seems to me) would lead to lower prices. Moreover, there’s a significant risk that, if they did, the result would be less medical innovation for the benefit of aging baby-boomers.
I was no fan of the prescription drug benefit, and I have no idea whether it’s the smashing success the Post depicts. But I find it interesting that the Post waited until after the election to extol the virtues of a program the criticism of which was an important element in the Dems’ campaign.
The Post blames the Republicans for not getting the message out. It quotes one Republican as saying “Black voters, poor voters — people who generally vote Democrataic — they got the biggest benefit in 40 years, and nobody told them that.” But these voters wouldn’t have believed Republicans. And why would the Post cover this issue when more pressing matters like “maccaca” and George Allen’s Jewish grandfather demanded its attention?
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