LONG: Obama’s Coming After Medicare Part D

The “dog days” of summer are upon us.  The thermometer is hovering around 100 degrees and Congress is out of session. For most of us, the heat is bad but Congress being out of session and “visiting” constituents is good…but only if we take advantage of it!

Sadly, we can expect the Medicare Part D debate to be one of the most quarrelsome issues in the upcoming budget deliberations once Congress reconvenes.  The Obama Administration has it in its sights adding rebates to the program.  Such rebates would be nothing more than a tax on the entire program.  Yes, a tax!  Is anyone really surprised?

Medicare Part D  is an issue that impacts all of us.  Part D was passed by Republicans over the heads of many of us who are conservative.  But, upon close inspection, we now admit that not only is Part D working well, but it has become a spotlighted free market program that goes back to the good old days when free market was “cool.”

Here is how Medicare Part D works.  Once a year, private insurers get together and offer prescription drug plans to seniors. Then, the seniors shop around to select the plan that best meets their medical needs and their pocketbooks.

This concept of “choice” is also called free enterprise and, as it applies to Part D, has been successful beyond all expectations.  A Federal program that actually works!

Not only is this concept working for seniors, but it also ultimately saves all Americans money.  The plan has consistently come in under budget.  The costs are now 45% below the original 10-year projection and will cost $350 billion less than original estimates.

A recent USA Today article explained that Medicare Part D premiums will remain stable and the deductibles will fall from $325 to $310 in the upcoming year. On average, Part D plans cost $30 per month and premiums have held steady for four years in a row.  More importantly, 96% of participating seniors say their coverage works well.

A study by Harvard researchers has found that Part D has reduced overall Medicare spending by $13 billion dollars annually by helping to keep seniors healthy enough to stay out of hospitals and nursing facilities.  The Congressional Budget Office has also determined that greater access to prescription drugs decreases medical spending for seniors.

Looking at all of the scary predictions regarding the rising costs for health care for next year, we can easily see that the expectations of Part D are a breath of “fresh air.”

We have healthier seniors at a “below than expected” cost!  This fact alone should be cause for celebration.  But, the Obama White House is not  “cool” with it.  All Obama sees is a “hot” new way to exploit the taxpayer. He plans to impose rebates on drug companies, thereby imposing a new tax on the program.

What will happen if Obama has his way and imposes rebates on drug companies?  To begin with, it would likely lead to higher premiums and co-pays and increased drug prices for private sector consumers, thus resulting in less access to critical medications.

These rebates would give us less funding for biopharmaceutical research, thereby greatly delaying potential scientific and medical developments that could change lives for the better by making drugs more effective and safer for everyone  We know that more research means more job opportunities.  More job opportunities are good for us all.

Most Republicans disagree with Obama’s anti-free market ideas of rebates.  Some Democrats disagree as well. The Louisiana Republican State Central Committee recently passed a resolution endorsing Part D as it stands and instructed Congress to refrain from taxing it via writing in rebates to the government.

So, while Members of Congress are home sweltering in the August temperatures, we have the opportunity to make sure that they feel the political temperature as well.  Medicare Part D should continue to be the strong free market program that it is and rebates need to be kept out of the picture.

As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke…don’t fix it.”  Contact your congressmen today and let him know that Medicare Part D is a solid free market program which not only serves seniors, but in doing so, serves all America.  Part D  is the best way to reshape Medicare going forward.  Let them know…the heat is on!

Diane Long
Louisiana Power Coalition

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