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GOP Drug Plan Falls Short, Amounts to Subsidy for Health Insurance Industry

April 13, 2000

GOP Drug Plan Falls Short, Amounts to Subsidy for
Health Insurance Industry

Statement of Public Citizen Joan Claybrook

House GOP leaders this week unveiled the broad outline of a plan to make prescription drug insurance available to senior citizens. According to news reports, the plan would set aside $40 billion over five years to help subsidize private drug insurance for senior citizens below certain income levels.

At long last, House GOP leaders have woken up to the very desperate situation that exists for millions of senior citizens who can?t afford prescription drugs. It is most unfortunate, however, that in crafting a plan to address this need, House leaders are doing contortions to avoid confronting the real issue: the high cost of drugs.

The plan unveiled Wednesday amounts to a federal taxpayer subsidy for the private-sector health insurance industry — yet another example of lawmakers doling out corporate welfare. There are no guarantees as to the scope of or qualifications for coverage, or the size of deductibles or co-pays that would be required. Nor is there any guarantee that low- and middle-income consumers could afford the drugs under this private insurance for Medicare recipients.

Further, there has been no promise of government oversight to ensure that plan participants receive fair treatment and the health insurance industry doesn?t make excessive profits at the expense of our seniors. We have seen in the past that this industry will go to any lengths to line its pockets. We cannot count on it to put patients first, even with Uncle Sam footing the bill.

Finally, nothing in the plan addresses the true root of the problem, and that is the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. Until we cover drugs as a Medicare benefit available at the wholesale prices available to other government agency buyers, seniors will not get the medicines they so badly need and deserve.

The GOP leaders should stop patting themselves on the back, stop trying to protect the profits of health insurers and the drug industry, and go back to the drawing board.