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Bush's drug company subsidy is even worse than we thought.

An analysis of the Bush Administration's new Medicare drug law, set to go into effect January 2006, found that low-income seniors and people with disabilities will end up paying more for prescription drugs than they currently do. The revelation is just the latest addition to a pile of complaints about the controversial legislation.

Republican legislation perversely turning out to be heavy-handed toward those that need it most.  How surprising.

Through a series of state-specific reports on the effects of the new law, a progressive activist and advocacy organization called the Institute for America's Future documents the program's disproportionate impact on some of the country's most vulnerable aid recipients.

In New York State, for example, the poorest residents will pay about $85.9 million more for prescriptions during the first five years of the new law, according to the report's findings. In California, the total increase is $450.9 million.

According to the Institute for America's future, 21 states and the District of Columbia currently provide prescription medicines to residents who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid free of charge or at very low cost. According to Families USA, a nonprofit progressive healthcare advocacy organization, the majority of those individuals live on annual incomes of less than $6,650. In 2006, the co-payments will rise to $1 for a generic drug prescription and $3 to $5 for a brand-name prescription. These rates will increase every year along with the consumer price index.

For the nation's poorest residents, many who live on less than $18 a day, those price increases could be significant.

As would be expected, the health providers are given absurd amounts of latitude in how they provide coverage, while the insured are basically locked in to their original program.  

Each company is also allowed to both define those classes and change the definitions, and is only required to announce that information to its customers by posting changes to the Internet. If a patient's medicine is not included on the insurer's coverage list, he or she will have to pay 100 percent of the drug's cost. Under current programs in states that provide prescription drug assistance, medications deemed "medically necessary" by patients' doctors are covered.

While insurers are given flexibility to switch the drugs they cover, Medicare recipients will be required to stick with the plan they choose for several months at a time, even if the plan stops covering or raises the costs of the drugs they need.

And as to corpate giveaways, this one's a beauty.

The new law, which will cost upwards of $500 billion over the first ten years, is nothing more than a corporate give-away that will cause hardship for seniors, baby boomers, and younger generations. According to a study conducted by the Boston University Health Reform Program, drug companies are estimated to gain about $139.2 billion dollars in new profits over the first eight years of the program.

HMOs and other private insurance companies also win big. "The new law creates a new pay scale for participating insurance companies, overpaying them to provide the same care to people on Medicare that the traditional fee-for-service program would provide for less," she said.

Now for the icing on the cake.  The fiscal crisis this legislation creates for Medicare far exceeds that of the supposed fiscal crisis for Social Security.

With the estimated long-term costs of the program shooting well past those projected for Social Security, analysts have warned it is unsustainable.

Comptroller General David M. Walker, who heads the General Accountability Office (GAO), Congress' investigative wing, recently told the Los Angeles Times: "The Medicare problem is about seven times greater than the Social Security problem, and it has gotten much worse. It is much bigger, it is much more immediate, and it is going to be much more difficult to effectively address."

Somehow I always want to assume that these guys aren't as cynical as they have consistently proven themselves to be.

Originally posted to Descrates on Thu Dec 23, 2004 at 08:39 AM PST.

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