Sunday, November 16, 2003

Medicare bill-complex and crappy

Complex and Crappy

In the interest of reelection, congressional republicans and the Bush administration are ramming bad legislation down everybody's throats. This weekend, we got the Medicare overhaul bill out of committee, and the energy policy plan. Are they any good? I doubt it.

My biggest issues with the Medicare bill are the entry of private health care plans into the market, forcing seniors to abandon their PCPs and join an HMO in many cases, and the gap in coverage built into the drug benefit. On top of monthly premiums of $35, a prescription deductible of an outrageous $275 and paying 25% of the cost of drugs from $276 to $2,200, seniors will have a "gap in coverage" between the $2,200 mark and $3,600.

This snippet from the "agreement in principle" shows a bullheaded insistence on moving farther away from a single-payer system:
    The federal government would be forbidden to negotiate directly with drug companies to secure lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries. But private insurers and pharmacy benefit managers could conduct such negotiations.

This one too:
    The government would offer billions of dollars in new subsidies to private health plans to induce them to participate in Medicare.

Hello? How about we move towards a socialized medical system? There are too many old people not to do otherwise. I just don't see how we can ensure a basic level of care to everyone when we let market forces, and insurance companies in particular, dictate the availability of coverage.

I lived in Washington state when the private insurers all pulled out of the individual market due to the high costs of insuring people in the state. This left the most vulnerable of citizens, those without employer-sponsored health care plans, with only the state insurance available. And it was much more expensive, so people went without coverage. What if that happens with this system?

I don't know. It seems like this is just another excuse to give a break to another industry that paid for Bush's election. Maybe I'm wrong.

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