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Seniors to Medicare Bill: Drop Dead!

As the details of the new Medicare prescription drugs bill continue coming out, the bill just looks worse and worse. A good article by Robert Pear in the December 7 New York Times points out that seniors will not be able to buy “Medigap”-type insurance policies to cover the huge holes in the prescription drug benefit, as they can with regular Medicare benefits. In addition, there will be a “formulary” or list of drugs that the Medicare benefit will cover. Drugs not on the list will receive no coverage and money spent on them will not count toward the drug benefit’s limit on out-of-pocket costs. (For more analysis of what’s wrong, see Jonathan Cohn’s New Republic analysis and this recent post by DR.)

No wonder that the ink’s barely dry on the bill and seniors are already tepid to hostile about the bill. According to The Washington Post, strong pluralities of both seniors (47 percent to 26 percent) and those 55-64 (46 percent to 32 percent) disapprove of the Medicare changes voted by Congress. The article quotes leading nonpartisan pollster Andrew Kohut as saying: “This is a surprisingly tepid reaction to this big legislation.”

Indeed. More evidence of seniors’ dismay comes from a just-released Gallup poll. Seniors just barely say (46 percent to 39 percent) that they favor the new prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. Amazing, for a group that’s just received a new benefit.

And, by 44 percent to 38 percent, they say they oppose the changes made in Medicare coverage. Moreover, 85 percent say they are very (56 percent) or somewhat (29 percent) concerned that the Medicare changes won’t go far enough in helping seniors pay for their prescriptions; 78 percent say they are very (58 percent) or somewhat (20 percent) concerned that these changes “benefit prescription drug companies too much”; and 73 percent say they are very (48 percent) or somewhat (25 percent) concerned that the changes will force some Medicare recipients into HMOs.

Finally, by a lop-sided 59 percent to 28 percent margin, seniors think the new Medicare plan will do more to benefit prescription drug companies than Medicare recipients.

Wow. Usually bills like this get a nice honeymoon period where people give the new legislation the benefit of the doubt. Not this one. Maybe that’s why the Bush administration is now talking about going to the moon. What they’re doing on earth doesn’t seem to be going over too well.


I found the Pear story via The Daily Howler (http://dailyhowler.com/dh120903.shtml). Somerby points out that the text and accompanying figures all give the percentages covered under the plan, but with the $420 in premiums exluded--which makes a big difference (I usually try to not plug my own posts in other blogs' comments, but this one showing the effect of the premium exclusion is right on point: http://angrybear.blogspot.com/2003_12_07_angrybear_archive.html#107101649922421435).

So the NYT pens a piece that dramatically overstates the benefits, yet seniors still don't like the plan.


id love it if dems kept bringing this up, because, when AARP members burn their membership cards...you're talkin a political opportunity here. aside from that, dems have always been better for seniors, historically (think "we're right, they're wrong" by James Carville)