Now that the Democrats have taken over Congress, they are promising to "fix" Medicare Part D by making it more government-run, more generous to better-off recipients, and much less profitable for those evil disease-curing drug companies. The hitch is that the current, supposedly disastrous plan costs much less than expected and seniors are overwhelmingly happy with it. Shocking, isn't it? People like to get expensive stuff cheaper!
Oh, and before I get grief about minimizing such a vital issue, let's keep in mind that the greatest generation has a lot going for it, but a healthy aversion to statism isn't one of them. In 2000, when the prescription-drug crisis was reaching a crescendo - Al Gore seemed to find old ladies who had to choose between pills and food everywhere he went - senior citizens were nonetheless the most insured Americans. All of them were entitled to Medicare, most had other insurance, and four out of five of them already had prescription drug coverage by a third-party provider. Yes, some poor seniors needed help, but as a group, old people spent more of their money on entertainment (5.3 percent) than they did on drugs (3.2 percent). And yet the federal government refused to create a new entitlement to cheap "Matlock" DVDs.
The subtlety of mind behind the Democratic push to have the government "negotiate" - i.e. dictate - drug prices can be summarized in a statement by Robert M. Hayes, president of something called the Medicare Rights Center: "It only makes sense that if the industries do less well, the taxpayers and the consumers will do better."
By all means then, let us burn these industries down and salt the earth where they stood, for then we will live in consumer nirvana!
Hayes was talking to the Washington Post, which, having covered the "devastating" effects of Bush's plan before the midterm elections, has now suddenly discovered the plan works pretty well after all. "Success of Drug Plan Challenges Democrats," blared the headline.
And people wonder why we're so cynical.
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