Health Care Program Comes at High Cost
June 30, 2003
In expanding Medicare to cover the high cost of prescription drugs, Congress and the White House have agreed to a flawed approach that could leave many elderly still facing high out-of-pocket expenses. Congress largely ducked needed reforms to rein in Medicare's explosive growth, and the nation remains exposed to potentially catastrophic costs, according to a USA Today editorial.
Lawmakers are relying on a bunch of gimmicks that underestimate the huge tab likely to be foisted on taxpayers, says USA Today:
- The $400 billion the benefit is projected to cost over the next 10 years is achieved only by delaying the effective date of the benefit for three years.
- Then the expected cost starts shooting up, making the program more than twice as expensive in the subsequent 10 years.
- And even the official forecasts likely understate the costs, if Medicare's history is a guide: In 1972, for example, Congress added a kidney dialysis benefit that was projected to grow to less than $3 billion by 1995; the actual amount spent was 10 times that.
The nation deserves a better effort to protect seniors' welfare and shore up Medicare's financial future than the prescription drug benefit Congress has cobbled together, says USA Today.
Source: Editorial, "Medicare plan's benefits shortchange seniors," USA Today, June 30, 2003.
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