The Drug Plan For Seniors Was Misconceived In Giving Private Insurers A Decisive Role
As state after state is forced to come up with an emergency plan to see that its poorest elderly actually do get drugs at the prices promised, already it is clear that the private insurance companies, unwisely given a major role in the plan, are not living up to their responsibilities.
When do insurance companies behave properly? Almost never.
It seems in some respects like New Orleans all over again. The federal government promises a great deal, but does very little to see that it is really delivered. Just as the government failed to muster a successful rescue in New Orleans, so it is leaving seniors in a lurch here.
This is an immensely costly plan, and to undertake it without assuring federal control over drug prices, or at least assigning to the government the right to negotiate mass discounts in the cost of drugs was extremely foolhardy. The result will be a waste of public funds and uncontrolled inflation in prices.
Already, the drug industry is among the nation's most irresponsible. It has consistently foisted on the country outrageous prices, often selling the very drugs it produces abroad for much less. Its powerful lobby in Congress is accountable for the corruption that pervades that body. Its advertising of products is in itself a profound disservice to the public.
The Bush Administration, which has often proved inept in fighting the War On Terror, was in cahoots with the big drug producers in fashioning the plan for the elderly, and it bears the responsibility for its early ineptitude.
Under these circumstances, it's not surprising that the enrollment process was highly confused, with enrol-lees forced to remain for long periods on telephone lines just to get through to ask about the plan. Then, it took the companies and Medicare a long time to enroll those signing up, and, for those automatically assigned, the Medicaid recipients, the process was terribly fouled up.
Now, at the drug stores themselves, the co payments demanded are often mistaken, and druggists can't easily get through to the insurers when questions of their own arise.
Congress can't even successfully question the Administration's reactionary appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court. To hope that it will prove able to control the drug lobby and bring this plan to rationality may be too hopeful.