Another Pre-election Myth Debunked: Seniors Love New Medicare Drug Benefit

November 27th, 2006 11:42 PM

All year long, the media were disgusted with the new Medicare prescription drug benefit that became available this January thanks to George W. Bush and a Republican Congress. It was too confusing. It was too expensive. It wasn’t going to save anybody any money. It was just a big payoff for Bush’s friends in the pharmaceutical industry.


Well, almost three weeks after the polls closed, it must be safe to report the truth: 80 percent of seniors are satisfied with the new benefit. So said the Boston Globe Monday (emphasis mine throughout):

It sounded simple enough on the campaign trail: Free the government to negotiate lower drug prices and use the savings to plug a big gap in Medicare's new prescription-drug benefit.

But as Democrats prepare to take control of Congress, they are struggling to keep that promise without wrecking a program that has proven cheaper and more popular than anyone imagined.

Wouldn’t want to tell people this before Election Day, would you folks? The article miraculously continued:

The Medicare drug benefit, one of the Bush administration's signature domestic programs, was created in 2003 and took effect in January. It has enrolled 22.5 million seniors, some of whom had no previous drug coverage.

Polls indicate that more than 80 percent of enrollees are satisfied, even though nearly half chose plans with no coverage in the doughnut hole, a gap that opens when a senior's drug costs reach $2,250 and closes when out-of-pocket expenses reach $3,600.

There’s even more good news: “The cost of the program has been lower than expected, about $26 billion in 2006, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The cost was projected to rise to $45 billion next year, but Medicare has received new bids indicating that its average per-person subsidy could drop by 15 percent , to $79.90 a month.”

So, more people have signed up for it than anybody expected, it’s cheaper for seniors than expected, cheaper for the government than expected, and over 80 percent of enrollees are satisfied. Just imagine how that kind of news regularly disseminated in October instead of a sex-scandal involving a little-known Florida Congressman might have impacted the elections.

What a disgrace!

*****Update: Our member "kw" pointed out that this Globe story was taken from a front-page Washington Post article published on Sunday. Imagine that. Here are some paragraphs the Globe didn't include (emphasis mine):

Initially, he said, people were worried no private plans would participate. "Then too many plans came forward," Reischauer said. "Then people said it's going to cost a fortune. And the price came in lower than anybody thought. Then people like me said they're low-balling the prices the first year and they'll jack up the rates down the line. And, lo and behold, the prices fell again. And the reaction was, 'We've got to have the government negotiate lower prices.' At some point you have to ask: What are we looking for here?"

Republicans contend that Democrats were looking for a campaign issue.

In the Nov. 7 elections, public anger over the doughnut hole helped many Democratic candidates, who pointed to the ban on government negotiations and accused Republicans of selling out to the pharmaceutical industry.

Republicans, by and large, did a poor job of defending the program, said Thomas A. Scully, a Republican and the former head of the federal unit that runs Medicare. He played a key role in creating the drug benefit.

In reality, this appears to be another part of the Democrat bait and switch -- yet one more campaign promise they had no intention of keeping -- and the media were totally complicit in the scam. In the end, the 2006 elections could go down in history as the one in which the most lies were told to voters by both politicians and their minions in the press.