February 11, 2005

February 11, 2005 | WebMemo on Health Care

Bitter Pills #17: $534 Billion. $720 Billion. What Next?

Question: "How much money will it cost taxpayers to give all Medicare patients prescription-drug coverage over the next 10 years?"

Answer: Depends on which 10 years. The White House says it will be $720 billion between 2006 and 2015. That's different from its earlier projection of $534 billion or the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of $400 billion. But those figures cover the period between 2004 and 2013, when fewer baby boomers have retired and full 10-year coverage starts pushing costs up.

Many lawmakers are shocked - shocked ! - by the higher price. But The Washington Post wasn't fooled. "Anyone who looked at the matter knew that, whatever the precise number, the cost was on a path to explode in the second 10 years and beyond," it said in a Feb. 10 editorial.

Heritage Foundation analyst Robert Moffit wasn't fooled either. In November 2003, he and Heritage expert Stuart Butler wrote that the drug entitlement's cost at the time was "just the tip of the iceberg." In a Feb. 10 online paper, Moffit suggests the entitlement be replaced with a more-targeted plan by 2006 because delay will only make this worse. Read more of it here:

http://www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/wm661.cfm.

For more information or to receive an e-mail version of "Bitter Pills," contact chris.kennedy@heritage.org or call Heritage Media Services at (202) 675-1761.

"Bitter Pills" is an occasional, but regular, feature from The Heritage Foundation on how the 2003 Medicare drug law is full of sickening "surprises" that have serious consequences for seniors and taxpayers. Of course, The Heritage Foundation isn't surprised at all. We diagnosed the problems long ago in ourMedicare Maladies series. Both Medicare Maladies and Bitter Pills are available on heritage.org (if you can stomach them).

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