February 16, 2004
The Bush Medicare bill is criticized by Democrats and labor unions. They compain that coverage is incomplete, isn't fully available for two years and will be much more costly than estimated. However, says Robert Goldberg (Manhattan Institute) the Bush plan is similar to one proposed earlier by Bill Clinton and supported by virtually every Democrat.
Among the differences in the two plans:
- Clinton's was scheduled to kick in four years after it was to pass in 19999 -- not in two years as with the Bush plan.
- The Clinton plan covered a lot fewer people.
- And the Clinton plan capped government spending at about $2,500 per senior -- with no catastrophic coverage -- whereas the Bush plan covers all drug costs over $3,000 a year.
- Increased utilization of the benefit because "new low income subsidies would eliminate out of pocket costs" and because the new drug plan would "offer a more generous drug benefit package than standard Medigap plans now do, and at a lower premium."
- Furthermore, "people [who] received Medicaid benefits under the proposal also would enroll in Part D [drug coverage] because states, which are responsible for their drug costs, would sign them up for Part D to reduce their Medicaid expenditures."
These are the very same reasons that the Bush administration cites for now saying that their plan will be about 25 percent higher than the initial CBO estimate of $400 billion.
Thus Democrats want to repeal a measure that is more generous than the one they supported less than four years ago.
Source: Robert Goldberg, "Medicare hypocrisy," Washington Times, February 16, 2004.
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