Saturday, October 16, 2004

The first and last time I talk about Medicare

In the Oct issue of The Atlantic, there's a great little essay by everyone's favorite conservative funnyman P.J. O'Rourke, titled "To Hell With Lipitor!" (subtitled Medicare reform - an explanation). I would love to link to it (which I do here), but you have to be a subscriber to The Atlantic to access most content on their website. So I briefly thought about just reprinting the whole thing, but that wouldn't be right, because it's illegal. So here's the gist:

The Bush Administration's "Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003" is not making much sense to the seniors is purports to support -- sense in that it's way more bureaucratic than it need be. An excerpt, which might help you understand how complicated this initiative can get:

"Tell kids they deserve a treat. Then give them 15 percent of a Snickers bar, or a little more if it's some generic candy bar. Tell them how, in two years, they can have candy free--if they pay for part of it and a bite has been taken out of the middle."

There's so much more to this article, I can't tell you how much it's worth reading. So go down to your local library, find the October 2004 issue of The Atlantic (with a B&W picture of Bush's partial face on the cover), turn to page 56, and read this thing. There's other parts, about how Medicare cannot bargain with the drug companies for lower prices, like the Department of Veterans Affairs can. Or about how the Bill blocks Canadian imports of the same exact drugs in order to keep drug prices artificially high, and pharmaceutical companies happy.

What's funny about all this is that the Act doesn't seem to be in the spirit of George W. Bush's conservatism. It both prohibits the Govt from bargaining for lower prices, and blocks free trade with foreign countries, specifically Canada, whom we already have a free-trade agreement with in NAFTA. This is the kind of legislation that conservatives would have (and should have) cried murder over were it introduced by Bill Clinton in the 90s. It's funny to have an Act so steeped in socialism (that's right) come from a conservative administration.

And while I might not be the perfect conservative, still, very little about this Act smells good. And to top it off, no one's really sure where the money's going to come from (i.e., either we'll be paying for it as we near retirement in the form of higher taxes, and/or our kids will pick up most of the slack).

What just happened to free trade and fiscal responsibility? Did I miss something here?

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