NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Drug Plans A Solution Looking For A Problem?

November 1, 2000

For all the election year rhetoric about reforming prescription drug policy, analysts report most Americans over age 65 don't have trouble buying drugs. In fact, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance:

  • Two-thirds of all seniors will pay less than $500 out of pocket this year for prescription drugs.
  • Only seven percent will pay more than $2,000.
  • Two-thirds of those over 65 already have prescription drug coverage.
  • Finally, many of the one-third who aren't covered either have access to Medicaid or are affluent enough to pay their own bills.

Nevertheless, both Al Gore and George W. Bush want to create expensive government programs to subsidize drugs for all 39 million Medicare recipients -- even the wealthy and the well-insured.

Analysts point out that the biggest beneficiaries of both plans would be employers that provide prescription drug coverage for retired workers. Those companies would save about $50 billion over five years by having the government underwrite part of their promise to meet retirees' drug expenses.

And neither candidate has answered the big question: how will they pay for Medicare as it exists now, let alone with an expensive new addition like a drug program? Medicare will spend $219 billion this year to provide health insurance. The average cost of prescriptions per person is expected to rise from $32.12 in 1995 to $72.94 in 2010.

Source: Dennis Cauchon, "Campaigns' Rx Could be Wrong Prescription," USA Today, November 1, 2000.


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