To meet a deadline that means nothing, set only to satisfy a president who seems not to notice, the Senate is preparing to pass legislation that would make HillaryCare – the former first lady's proposal to socialize American medicine – look like sound public policy.
President Bush has said he will sign a measure to extend prescription-drug coverage to all seniors through Medicare – but the one making its way to his desk has Teddy Kennedy licking his chops and smiling like a Cheshire cat.
No one is saying seniors shouldn't have prescription-drug coverage. But in its rush to meet the artificial, arbitrary deadline imposed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the Senate is poised to do "reform" in the worst way possible ... to pass the largest and most disastrous expansion of social spending since the Great Society programs of the mid-1960s.
The early estimates are that the new drug benefit will cost taxpayers $7.5 trillion – read that, trillions. This benefit would, in reality, become an entitlement, which means that budgeting means nothing – that whatever it costs to fulfill this entitlement will be charged to the American taxpayer, no questions asked, forever and ever.
President Bush started off on the right foot in this debate. He proposed a system modeled on the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, the highly successful, highly popular insurance program that covers members of Congress and their staffs, White House staffers and 9 million other federal employees, their beneficiaries and federal retirees.
FEHBP offers beneficiaries a variety of coverage plans, all of which offer prescription-drug coverage. The private-sector insurance companies would have to provide good service to attract customers and hold down costs to make a profit.
President Bush proposed to sweeten the drug benefit for those who left Medicare and entered these more-efficient private plans. But in recent days, in an effort to pass a bill – any bill – Frist and others in the Senate have agreed to strike this and make the benefit equal for those who remain in Medicare.
What would this mean? A good one to ask is Robert Moffit, my colleague at the Heritage Foundation and one of the nation's leading experts on health care, who just wrote a piercing diagnosis of the new legislation.