The battle of the prescription drug plans has begun with the release of George W. Bush's plan. He is hoping that this hot issue of prescription drug benefits for Medicare recipients will improve his own political health in the battle against Al Gore.
It's still amazing to me that this has become the hottest issue in the presidential campaign. And that maybe is the best back-handed compliment for how well the economy and society are doing on a variety of fronts. But it is an important issue to Medicare's 40 million beneficiaries, especially the ones who have no drug coverage at all.
Al Gore's plan would cost approximately $253 billion (over ten years) and go into effect in 2002 and be fully implemented by 2008. Patients pay $25 to $50 a month in premiums, and low income seniors would be heavily subsidized. Government would pay half of the beneficiaries' drug cost, and after a beneficiary spends $4000 on drugs, the government would pay all other drug costs that year.
George Bush's plan would cost approximately $110 billion for Medicare reform and $48 billion for short-term help for low-income seniors. That short-term help would be available in 2001. Premiums would vary depending on the health plan selected. Like Al Gore's plan, low-income seniors would be heavily subsidized. After a beneficiary spends $6000, the government would pay the rest of the costs.
Lost in the debate about these plans is whether the United States needs to provide such sweeping benefits. According to a new study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation, Americans spend 1.2 percent of the gross domestic product on drug purchases. That is a smaller percentage than France, Germany, or Japan spends. It is the same percentage Canada spends. Pointing that out during a campaign is not likely to win you votes, so I hope that after the elections someone takes the time to bring these facts to the debate in Congress.
I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.