Nationwide, conservatives who are not in elected office are questioning the wisdom of the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill. The $400 billion dollar plan will be the single largest entitlement expansion since President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) wrote that “it would impose an overwhelming new debt burden on our country and on our children and grandchildren”
CAGW also noted that “the Congressional Budget Office estimates that this new entitlement will cost substantially more than the $400 billion its proponents claim. Medicare itself now costs at least SEVEN times the amount originally estimated. What’s even worse, the $400 billion price tag is not included in this year’s projected record deficit of $480 billion!”
And don’t forget that Ted Kennedy called the $400 billion “a down payment.”
But our elected conservative officials already know all of this.
So what will it take for them to understand that they should be opposed to this new gargantuan entitlement program?
Maybe these two items will help:
#1 – The bill is supported by the AARP
From an AARP statement:
- AARP today announced its strong endorsement of the prescription drug bill offered by the conference committee and will work vigorously for its passage.
AARP believes that millions of older Americans and their families will be helped by this legislation. Though far from perfect, the bill represents an historic breakthrough and important milestone in the nation’s commitment to strengthen and expand health security for its citizens at a time when it is sorely needed.
The bill will provide prescription drug coverage at little cost to those who need it most: people with low incomes, including those who depend on Social Security for all or most of their income. It will provide substantial relief for those with very high drug costs, and will provide modest relief for millions more. It also provides a substantial increase in protections for retiree benefits and maintains fairness by upholding the health benefit protections of the Age Discrimination and Employment Act.
AARP is pleased by the improvements made to the conference report in recent days. A new structure called “premium support” which required competition between traditional Medicare and private plans was downsized to a limited test starting in 2010, which has significant protections for those in traditional Medicare. The government will provide coverage in areas where private plans fail to offer coverage. The integrity of Medicare will be protected.
An unprecedented $88 billion will encourage employers to maintain existing health retiree benefits. The legislation will help speed generic drugs to market and add important new preventive and chronic care management services. Finally, this legislation protects poor seniors from future soaring prescription drug costs.
AARP is launching a national grassroots, advertising and information campaign this week to explain the legislation and urge bipartisan support for its passage.
#2 – The New York Times has endorsed it
From a Times editorial dated November 19:
- Despite its shortcomings, the Medicare prescription drug bill heading for a vote in Congress is worthy of passage. Fears that the legislation contains seeds that will ultimately destroy the traditional Medicare program strike us as overblown. Our own chief qualm is that the country, with deficits looming as far as prognosticators can see, cannot afford a program that will cost, at a minimum, $400 billion over 10 years.
Millions of middle-income Americans will get only modest help from the program, and they will have to cope with a crazy-quilt pattern of benefits. But fortunately, the bill is strongest when it comes to the most important target groups: elderly people with low incomes or very high drug bills. [???]
Our own choice would be to rescind the Bush administration’s reckless tax cuts for the wealthy to pay for drug coverage of benefit to all. But any lawmakers who voted for the tax cuts cannot in good conscience support the drug bill unless they are ready to stand up and explain what should happen when the train wrecks occur.