NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Alternatives To Federal Prescription-Drug Entitlement

August 16, 1999

If President Clinton and Capitol Hill lawmakers really wanted to help needy seniors with their prescription-drug expenses, there are better ways to do it than further burden Medicare with the enormous costs involved, experts contend. They might be well advised to study proposals to free up insurers, relax Medicare restraints, liberalize Roth IRAs and look to the states for assistance.

Specifically, lawmakers could relax tight federal controls on Medigap policies which provide seniors supplemental insurance for expenses Medicare does not cover -- so that insurers will be free to create market plans to serve the needs of seniors.

  • For instance, a Milliman & Robertson analysis finds that for the average amount Medicare currently spends on each senior, a private plan could in principle sell a policy with a $1,585 across-the-board deductible -- covering hospital, physician and drug costs above that amount.
  • The many seniors who are already spending $1,500 to $2,000 a year for Medigap coverage could take that money and bank it.
  • Also, Congress could allow seniors to deposit the maximum in their Roth IRAs, regardless of the amount of earned income, and let them use the funds at any time without increasing their tax liability -- provided their IRA backs up a Medicare or Medicare+Choice private health plan.
  • And it could allow states to use funds to provide prescription drug coverage for the elderly poor -- perhaps by using a risk pool.

One great attraction of these proposals is that they would necessitate no new taxes and would cost the government nothing.

Source: Pete du Pont (National Center for Policy Analysis), "A Better Medicine for Seniors," Washington Times, August 16, 1999.


Browse more articles on Health Issues