If members of Congress have learned one thing about their proposals to make prescription drugs a Medicare entitlement, it's this: A lot of old men and women in America are ticked off about it.
Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla., told The New York Times Sept. 10 that elderly people were "up in arms" over the drug proposals when he visited his district this summer. Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W. Va., told the Times that many retirees are worried they would lose drug coverage provided by their former employers.
Darn right they're worried. Roughly 4 million retirees would lose their private coverage and be dumped into Medicare, which offers fewer benefits, if the proposals passed by lawmakers in June become law, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Right now, a Capitol Hill committee is reconciling the differences between two proposals to add prescription drugs to Medicare so it can send one bill to President Bush. It could follow what The Heritage Foundation proposes: Target assistance to seniors without coverage and begin a transition to a program that looks like the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. FEHBP offers up to two-dozen health plans, each with a prescription-drug plan. And it lets grandma and grandpa keep their coverage if they want to.
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("Medicare Maladies" is a regular feature, launched 7/14/03, from The Heritage Foundation. Sad to say, there's another malady coming your way tomorrow. Daily "maladies" are also available on heritage.org.)