President Clinton is proposing that Medicare rules be revised to include payment of half the cost of prescription medicines for seniors. This is another attempt to salvage a positive legacy for himself and send the bill to the American taxpayers.
Should the U.S. government expand its role to include providing prescription drugs to Medicare enrollees? As with almost any issue of substance, there are arguments both for and against.
HEAVY COST OF DRUGS
Few would disagree that prescription drugs are very expensive. For someone who doesn’t have a co-pay plan as part of a private insurance contract, that cost can be prohibitive. Prescription drugs are a vital part of most treatment plans and having a physician develop a plan and the patient then not be able to afford the prescribed medication can be fruitless.
Seniors need more medication than youngsters. The are more likely to suffer from arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart problems, stomach ailments, etc. than the rest of the population. Due to limited financial means, these ailments often go untreated. If Medicare was expanded to cover prescription drugs, much suffering would be alleviated, and in many cases, the life span of senior citizens would be extended.
HEAVY COST OF MEDICARE
Opponents of extending Medicare to include drugs argue that Medicare is already going broke and adding to the problem is insanity. President Clinton’s proposal includes raising the Medicare premium on the wealthy to pay a part of the additional cost.
There is already danger that the younger, smaller generation is not going to be willing to pay baby boomer Social Security and Medicare expenses under the existing system.
Increasing the load increases the resentment of younger taxpayers and may jeopardize the whole Social Security system. Somewhere out there is the final straw that would break the camel’s back.
Proponents of the Medicare revision acknowledge that the cost would be substantial. Actually, “substantial” is likely an understatement. Not only would the existing Medicare drug-takers continue on the program, but a legion of new drug-takers would emerge once prescription drugs became chargeable to Uncle Sam’s tab.
DESTRUCTION OF THE U.S. PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY
The obvious result of the government becoming the largest purchaser of prescription drugs would be to extend the fiasco currently happening in the health services industry to the pharmaceutical industry. Government price controls would stymie research and limit availability. The pharmaceutical industry is already staggering under the weight of diminished profits resulting from insurance co-pay arrangements. Government intervention could be the coup de grace.
Once the camel gets his nose under the tent, there is just no stopping him. Nothing would make President Clinton and his liberal followers happier than to push us further along the road to socialized medicine.
A BETTER OPTION
If increasing everyone’s Social Security benefit by $50 a month would keep the government out of the pharmacy business, it would be a cheap fix indeed. Liberals will argue that oldsters can’t be trusted to spend the additional funds on drugs. I say baloney! We are responsible for our actions and, in spite of the liberal fiasco of the last 30 years, there really are consequences attendant to our choices.
THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
— JOSHUA 24:14
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.