Golden State Column: The defining fiasco of the Bush Administration may prove to be the utterly disastrous Medicare prescription drug benefit, formally known as Medicare Part D. Already the newspapers are filled with stories about Medicare-Medicaid patients, the poorest of the poor, being denied prescriptions by the thousands because the government, with only two full years to prepare, didn't have its computer systems tested, up, and running when the program launched January 1. The pain is just beginning.And yet you have Roy Blunt writing in the WSJ about the many accomplishments of the House Republicans. You have to read his piece, it's hilarious, and note how much he doesn't talk about or conveniently excludes.
What's instructive about this project is that it provides a concrete illustration of what Social Security would have looked like after a Bush privatization job: A program that should be designed to serve citizens turned instead into a plaything for lobbyists and business interests.... Is there a saving grace in the disaster? Only that, considering that most eligible people will be signing up in early May, then discovering the flaws in the system through the summer and early fall, they'll be reaching the peak of fury and be well poised to wreak vengeance on the perpetrators at the ballot box in November. Good riddance.
It's worth remembering that the prescription drug program was born in an act of fraud. The Bush Administration sold it to Congress in 2003 by estimating its cost at less than $400 billion over 10 years. Scarcely a month after its enactment, the White House issued a new estimate: $535 billion. That figure might well have killed the bill, which had passed the House by a razor-thin margin even with the lower price tag.
It soon came to light that Richard Foster, Medicare's chief actuary, had known of the higher estimate - but had been told he'd be fired if he warned Congress before the vote. (The current estimate is $700 billion.)
As written, the legislation complied with a drug industry demand that Medicare be prohibited from negotiating with manufacturers for lower drug prices. Among those helping the industry make its stand was Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana), whose committee on energy and commerce oversaw Medicare. In an odoriferous development, Tauzin soon quit Congress to become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America - Big Pharma's Washington lobbying group.
Again I ask, when will the death count begin, for those unfortunate souls who perished due to this mismanaged healthcare debacle?