08 Jul 2003 Mr. President: Your Desire for Bill-Signing Ceremony on Medicare’s 35th Anniversary Isn’t Worth Turning the New Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit into a Political and Policy Disaster
If a Medicare prescription drug benefit is important enough to spend $400 billion taxpayer dollars on, its important enough to do properly, says The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative Capitol Hill think-tank that is calling on the White House to abandon its artificial deadline of July 30 for completing a Medicare prescription drug bill.
“According to numerous sources, the White House is hoping a final Medicare bill will be approved and on President Bush’s desk by the end of July so the President can sign the bill on the Medicare program’s 35th anniversary of July 30,” said Amy Ridenour, president of The National Center. “Not so fast. The minimal political benefit to President Bush of signing a Medicare bill on the program’s 35th anniversary instead of later in the year almost certainly will result in a bungled bill – one that seniors and taxpayers alike will hate. It is far better to take a few extra weeks or months to do the job right. America’s seniors deserve Congress’ best effort.”
“If a final Medicare prescription drug bill looks anything like what has come out of the Senate it will be both a political and policy disaster,” says National Center board member Edmund F. Haislmaier, a professional health policy consultant who spent every day on Capitol Hill meeting with legislators and their aides during the two-week period before the House and Senate approved competing versions of a prescription drug benefit. “The drug benefits in both bills are absurd. They have holes in coverage. They do not have any kind of benefit anyone would offer in a real-world market. The only decent thing in either of these bills is a section in the House bill that would reform Medicare into a bona fide patient-centered, individual-choice system starting when the Baby Boomers start retiring in 2010.”
“The Senate Medicare reform provisions,” added Haislmaier, who currently is Visiting Fellow in Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, “are Potemkin Village Medicare reforms. If the House provisions aren’t in the final bill, Congress should go back to the drawing board.”
“What’s most important,” Haislmaier concluded, “is reforming the system for tomorrow, not just buying votes from today’s retirees.”