Old Tricks

Cohn, Jonathan
March 2003
New Republic;3/17/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 10, p11
Offers observations on the efforts of the administration of United States President George W. Bush to create a Medicare bill that does not cast their economic policies in a negative light.Given the administration's reputation for political savvy and tight spin control, its very public stumbling over Medicare has been fascinating to watch.Administration officials began admitting to reporters that the aborted attempt at reform had been a fiasco but promising they would unveil a new and improved plan soon. In March, 2003, they did just that. Or, at least, they tried. In a speech before the American Medical Association, Bush vowed to accommodate critics of his plan. The "help" for prescription drugs that Bush is offering seniors who stay in traditional Medicare consists, first, of a drug discount card--which Bush promised would reduce costs by 10 to 25 percent but has been shown by a General Accounting Office study to offer average discounts of less than 10 percent. In other words, the new Bush reform scheme would have largely the same effect as the old: forcing seniors to choose between staying in traditional Medicare and forgoing significant help on drugs, or getting the help by enrolling in a managed care plan. Failure of his Medicare reforms in rural areas. The other major reason Bush is running into such trouble is that he himself has literally made a career of trashing HMOs.


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