It is hard to believe that we have a brand new entitlement mess on our hands. We can’t even fix the Social Security mess we’ve already got. The new mess is the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit entitlement.
In its editorial yesterday the Wall Street Journal correctly points out that the political process is sure to make things even worse:
…the new benefit will be a poor substitute for the drug coverage that some three-quarters of seniors already have, and which it will undoubtedly do much to replace.
In particular, seniors are nonplussed by the “donut hole” they see in the new coverage. The benefit envisaged by our Capitol Hill solons has coverage starting after a $250 deductible and continuing until annual drug expenses reach $2,250, after which it will disappear again until total costs reach $5,100. That means that if you spend $2,000 annually on drugs, Medicare will cover 66%. But if you spend $5,000, Medicare’s share will be only about 30%.
It goes on:
We also can’t forget how damaging the shifting cost estimates for this program have already been to the Administration’s credibility. Everybody knew the original 10-year, $400 billion figure that Congress was shooting for was a polite fiction. But that figure is now more than $700 billion, and both parties did their best to cover that fact up during the debate that led to the benefit’s passing the House by a single vote in 2003.
Do you know how your representative voted? There cannot be any ducking of responsibility on this one, Heather.
Politically, the worst is probably yet to come as private employers start ditching retiree drug coverage and throwing more people into the government system. And as costs for the program inexorably increase, so will the pressure to raise taxes.
And don’t forget about pressure to do something in the form of price controls.
In a few years we will be in for an intergenerational battle royal as old fogies like me seek to tax our working kids to pay for our government goodies.