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Republicans Flip-Flop on Drug Program

President Bush calls it his signature program. He labored strenuously - even lying about costs - to get it passed. He thinks it supports his contention of being a “compassionate” conservative. I’m talking about the new Medicare Drug benefit. Instead of shouting praises, as Bush had expected them to do, seniors are complaining about the chaos the program has brought. Republican senators, worried about losing election this fall, have voted to fix the measure.

The Medicare drug bill was one of the worst bills ever enacted by Congress - from either the conservative or liberal perspective. Conservatives fumed about the cost for what they considered to be a bloat of an entitlement program. Democrats cosidered the bill a monstrosity that doled out money to rich corporations and gave extremely little, if anything, to seniors.

When chaos ensued after the bill became law early this year, Republicans became apprehensive. When they heard the angry complaints from their constitutents, they figured they'd better do something or they would not be reelected. Thank goodness for election day. What a motivator!

Republican senators decided to change 2 things in the bill: The deadline for applying and the impermissibility of negotiating cheaper prices with pharmaceutical companies.

The deadline of May 15 is not needed. It was only put into the bill to entice seniors to apply before they had a chance to think things over. The Senate decided to postpone the deadline.

Not completely. They gave the administration the power to postpone it, if necessary. You see, they are still afraid of being hit by the lame duck.

This is the easy part. But listen to this. The Senate voted to allow the administration to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to get cheaper prices for drugs. This is a huge FLIP-FLOP. It shows how worried Republicans are.

Does this mean the Republicans see the light? Well, some do. Here's what Olympia Snowe, a so-called moderate Republican, said:

"The rapidly escalating price of prescription drugs threatens to undermine the very drug benefit Congress passed to deliver real savings to seniors. Our amendment manages costs in a common-sense way - harnessing the buying power of millions of seniors to give them a better value for their healthcare dollar."

Democrats have been screaming this message for so long they are hoarse. We are happy, however, that Republicans see the light - even though it comes via the heat of their constituents.

Will this Senate action become law? We don't know. It must be reconciled with the House version. Would Republican leaders in the House go against the wishes of their pharmaceutical-company friends? Not very likely. We need more constituent heat - that you can supply. Tell your representative to approve these changes to the Medicare Drug bill.

Posted by Paul Siegel at March 16, 2006 5:37 PM
Comment #133986


Posted by: Cam at March 16, 2006 6:48 PM
Comment #134006

Great article.
“Would Republican leaders in the House go against the wishes of their pharmaceutical-company friends? Not very likely. We need more constituent heat - that you can supply. Tell your representative to approve these changes to the Medicare Drug bill.”

Yes, let’s all remind them how they’re supposed be working for us, not big pharma. It only takes a minute to: Write Your Representative

Posted by: Adrienne at March 16, 2006 8:46 PM
Comment #134013

There was a front page USA Today article on looming deadlines, leaving me to wonder how it figures with the legislation you’re referring to Paul.

As much as the disaster that has been the implementation of the Drug Plan will continue to adversely effect Seniors, put the states in an untenable position and reinforce the growing ‘incompetent’ perception of the Bush administration, this move by Congressional Republicans could significantly mitigate the possible political damage.

Like the Iraq War, it gives them cover to dismiss (non-specific) ‘bugs’ in the program, and promise that with time, improvements will be seen.

Posted by: Bert M. Caradine at March 16, 2006 9:42 PM
Comment #134014

In my opinion it is to little to late for the Senators that originally thought this bill to be a good idea.

Posted by: j2t2 at March 16, 2006 9:44 PM
Comment #134018

Repub posters keep asking why us Dems never come up with ideas or solutions…this is why. Dems scream until they are hoarse about no negotiantions for fair prices on drugs, and Repubs postpone until the last minute…then take credit for the idea. Boy, I wish I could come up with an idea for Repubs to steal…

Posted by: Marysdude at March 16, 2006 10:15 PM
Comment #134040

I’m 68 and on Medicare. I was paying full bore for my prescription drugs until I signed up for a Medicare Plan D with a major insurance company. Just today, I refilled five prescriptions. Previously, these five drugs would have cost me
$331.85. With the Plan, I paid $119.46. My monthly premium is $116.00, with a lot of additional coverage for healthcare services I may need beyond Medicare’s 80%. I looked at a lot of plans, and felt I got more bang for the buck with this one. It’s not perfect, but it’s saving me $100.00 a month, even if I never have another prescription added to the list.
How many of you bloggers are speaking from experience as I am? Bush’s plan is better than what I had before - nothing.

Posted by: Jim at March 17, 2006 12:19 AM
Comment #134048

“How many of you bloggers are speaking from experience as I am? Bush’s plan is better than what I had before - nothing.
Posted by: Jim at March 17, 2006 12:19 AM”


I have to agree with you. I’m also on Medicare. I signed up in late November or early December and I’ve had no trouble at all. I take a lot of meds so I signed up for one of the more expensive plans (also an insurance carrier I know to be reputable). For me this scrip plan has been a very good thing.

But (don’t you hate buts?) I go to the senior center once or twice a week and I would estimate about 50% love it and the other 50% hate it. The majority I’ve heard that hate the plan are those who were already getting help with meds through Medicaid. A lot of these folks live on only $600 to $700 a month and some of them now are having to pay more for their drugs. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

Also the pharmacy (small town = one pharmacy) tells me that some of the insurance companies are actually paying them less than their cost for some meds. That certainly won’t work for long.

I want to believe that these things will be fixed. Only time will tell.


Posted by: KansasDem at March 17, 2006 12:57 AM
Comment #134061

Saying that this drug plan is better than nothing is not a ringing endorsement. I beleive ,and you probably do also, that people who worked hard all their lives should have an excellent program.By keeping insurance companies involved at all dooms this one . Thats like inviting a mugger to dinner to fight crime.

Saw a national news report yesterday about healthcare in the US. Seems we are below average for western countries at ALL income levels even though we pay more than anyone.The bright spot was the VA. It is large,provides excellent care,is very cost efficent and run by the government. The VA negotiates drug prices,among other things. There really are some things government can do well. Healthcare is one of them.
Please do not sight some anecdotal evidence about how some doctor in the Neterlands is unhappy or so and so had to wait to long for an operation in Canada etc. No system is perfect but ours is so out of wack it needs drastic change. 44 million without any coverage. An infant mortality rate higher than Cuba’s. Its a national disgrace. Our failure to fix it is a huge and growing drain on the economy as well as individuals so there is hope it will get fixed sooner rather than later but it will not be fixed by the Republicans. They are just not capable of it. Oh yeah,the reforms that fixed the VA were initiated under Clinton/Gore.

Posted by: BillS at March 17, 2006 3:08 AM
Comment #134066

Ken C,
Thanks for clearing up for us what a flip flop is. Now I’ll take a similar liberty to explain double standard.

Kerry had a plausible explanation for the famous before it against it flip flop statement. Republicans insist on taking it literally and dont want to hear it. But when it comes to Bush mis-statements, they invoke their double standard and see no need to take him literally.

Posted by: Schwamp at March 17, 2006 8:00 AM
Comment #134067

Ken C.,

What Kerry said during the campaign, consistently and repeatedly, was that Bush had bungled the war but it was strategically vital to “win” it. I didn’t agree with him, and still don’t, but that’s what the man always said. The vote was a protest against the CONDUCT of the war.

The problem with you guys is you confuse “flip-flopping” with nuance. The only logical positions you can see on the Iraq War are

1) Bush is a genius and everything is going just fine, or

2) let’s surrender to the “evildoers”, everywhere in the Middle East.

Obviously Bush is going to go with 1), and you guys really wanted Kerry to go with 2). Since he tried to find a logical alternative, he was a labelled a “flip-flopper”. Successfully, I admit.

Posted by: Woody Mena at March 17, 2006 8:05 AM
Comment #134079

Ken C,

my dad is 70 and has Parkinson’s. He is on an entire regimen of drugs, some of them ungodly expensive (thank you pharmaceutical companies, for making sure you get “market value” for critical drugs from captive consumers).

Since the change over to Part D, he is saving money on the older, less expensive drugs. However, the savings are eliminated by the $750 per month increase in his more expensive drugs. So, Part D is delivering an extra $8-9,000 per year to pharmaceutical companies, courtesy of my dad.

Do you want to guess how I feel about the program?

Oh, and to your comment about give it time - my dad has, at best, a handful of years remaining with decent quality of life - how much of that precious time are you suggesting that he give?

Posted by: CPAdams at March 17, 2006 9:44 AM
Comment #134083

Ken C and other defenders,

prescription drug coverage for seniors is not some abstract policy discussion. This is a real issue affecting real people, one by one.

I go off on a rant every now and then about poverty in America because it seems like people forget the real impact of federal policies.

Percent of seniors below poverty line in US - 10%

What the percent would be without SS or medicare/medicaid - 40%

Taking aid from seniors directly increases the number of older Americans living in poverty. I am glad that some Republicans followed the implementation of this terrible bill.

From here, it’s offensive that this was necessary in the first place.

Posted by: CPAdams at March 17, 2006 9:52 AM
Comment #134084

My parents opted not to participate based upon their exisiting coverage, so I don’t have the anecdotal evidence that some you have. But, here is the first poll that I’ve seen out there:


No. 7 was an interesting question/response: Pluralities of self-enrolled seniors say they think that politicians who criticize the new benefit are doing so to score political points, and that the criticism makes other seniors less likely to sign up

Posted by: George in SC at March 17, 2006 9:55 AM
Comment #134092


I say this with respect, but the high percentage of satisfied seniors, combined with the extremely low numbers of seniors who claim to be confused by the coverage, contradicts most of the stories in the media about the plan.

The survey you cite was sponsored by the orgainzation representing insurance companies - only the pharmas have more to gain from the status quo with the plan.

Posted by: CPAdams at March 17, 2006 10:30 AM
Comment #134103


I know that Media Matters is attacking this poll as biased, but I haven’t seen anything else out there other than the anecdotal evidence from persons like you (and stories in the media).

I’m sure that time will tell on such a large social program. Regardless, this is not and will not be a GOP win come fall of 2006. At most it is a draw, and with the conservatives continually attacking the program it is in all likelihood a loser. That’s why I guess I don’t understand the Democrats “reaching” to kill a social program (they typically like social programs) when they don’t have to, and when it MIGHT turn out to be a benefit to seniors.

Posted by: George in SC at March 17, 2006 11:34 AM
Comment #134161

Ken C.: “the most vital American strategic goal in the 21st century”? You really DO think Bush is a knight in shining armor, instead of the incompetent, so-called leader that he is.
No! I don’t like the way he’s running the country!
Yea! I thought, from the beginning, the war was stupid and I haven’t changed my mind.
Oh! What IS this famous goal! George doesn’t seem to know what the goal is, and it is HIS war.
No! I don’t think our troops are to blame. They’re doing what soldiers do in any war. They follow orders!
And, while we’re at it, I suppose you think the new bill to ok the president’s right to wire tap anyone without a warrant, is a good one.
I’m writing my senator to vote against it!
Think about how you would like it if Hillary was given the same powers.

Jack P, Ken C, has been banned from the site for failure to comply with our policy. —WatchBlog Managing Editor

Posted by: jack p at March 17, 2006 3:32 PM
Comment #134172

I have a feeling i’m the only person under 25 reading/posting here but i work for a non-profit that helps about 75 seniors manage their benefits and Medicare Part D has been a nightmare. the information offered before the implementation was vague at best and hasn’t gotten any better with the passing months. Just today i received a phone call from a pharmacy that some one had been disenrolled in her coverage plan 2 days after Christmas, because they couldn’t verify her birth date. Now i’m sure the problems seems worse to me because i’m dealing with 75 people but i kinda think of that as a small sample of what others are going through. For the people we serve the ratio is probably like 25% smooth sailing to 75% seventh circle of hell. And what gets me most is that if the administration is able to spin this properly and work out the kinks by fall they’ll come out smelling like roses, and let’s face it they pull that off all the time. And yeah as some posters have pointed out it might actually turn out to be a decent program but regardless our guys won’t ever be able to recoup the time or money they’ve lost this quarter. this was a political move, President Shrub cares as much about seniors, or education, or the impoverished residents of the Gulf Coast as he does about Iraqi citizens!!

Posted by: sociogeek at March 17, 2006 4:03 PM
Comment #145844

loking for wive in elburg ne her name was femmy reed her maiden name was advocaat i need her address so she would sign divorce paper

Posted by: reed at May 6, 2006 3:46 AM
Comment #203949

WASHINGTON Stung by reports of widespread problems with Medicare’s new prescription-drug program, the nation’s top health care official said Tuesday that the government is on the case and counseled seniors: “Don’t leave the pharmacy without your drugs.” WBR LeoP

Posted by: Leo at January 19, 2007 9:24 AM
Comment #204049

WASHINGTON Stung by reports of widespread problems with Medicare’s new prescription-drug program, the nation’s top health care official said Tuesday that the government is on the case and counseled seniors: “Don’t leave the pharmacy without your drugs.” WBR LeoP

Posted by: Leo at January 19, 2007 6:44 PM
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