In 2004 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, whose numbers the Bush administration strove to keep under wraps until after Congress approved the drug benefit in November 2003, put the program's 2004-2013 cost at $534 billion, more than a third higher than the Congressional Budget Office projection favored by the White House. Last February the centers estimated the cost during the first decade when drug coverage is really up and running -- i.e., beginning now -- will be $724 billion, more than 80 percent over the advertised price.
During its second decade the drug benefit's cost could hit $2 trillion. Throughout that period, President Bush and the congressional leaders who helped him create this monster, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, will get prescription drugs at taxpayers' expense.
Do these guys, all of whom are a lot wealthier than I am, really need my help to pay their pharmacy bills? Probably not, and I'd venture to say that neither do Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, but they're eligible for the subsidy too.
Worse, as the Joint Economic Committee noted in 2003, three-quarters of Medicare recipients already had some form of drug coverage before Congress approved the new benefit. It would have been a lot cheaper to aim the subsidy at people who actually needed it to pay for their medicine. But that would have meant admitting Medicare is welfare, not insurance -- a truth politicians are willing to spend trillions of other people's dollars to avoid.
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