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The Medicare Scam: How Putsch screwed Americans for hundreds of billions -- again
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
December 16, 2003

It sounds confusing as all get-out. Medicare will pay 75% after $250 has been spent, up to $2,250. After that, there's a "window" in the coverage that extends all the way to $5,100. Patient pays 100%. Then Medicare kicks back in, paying 95% of costs over $5,100. Until the end of the year. Then you get to start over.

It's confusing, and it's meant to be. The Republican designers of this monster wanted folks on Medicare to be staring helplessly at their calculators, wondering where to begin.

It's actually real simple: If you rack up $5,100 in prescription costs in a calendar year, Medicare will pay only $1,500 of that, leaving you to manage the remaining $3,600. Come the new year, you start with the same deductibles. Oh, and they want you to pay $420 a year for the privilege, so each year, on $5,100 worth of drugs, you shell out a total of $4,020.

If you only make about $40,000 a year or less, it means you're screwed.

In fact, you're screwed anyway. You see, they slipped a couple of real nasty provisions in there.

First, the government agrees to end all efforts to regulate the prices of prescription drugs. No price caps, no regulation. And why not? After the first $5,100, the taxpayer is footing the bill! The drug companies will work hard to get you, the taxpayer, to cough up handsomely for this wonderful gift the Putsch junta has given them!

Well, let's see: we have a new program that pays $1,500 on the first $5,100 in prescription drug costs. That's really going to help the fixed-income folks, isn't it? Costs About $425 a year, so in reality, the oldsters shell out a hair over $4,000 for drugs that cost $5,100 without any coverage at all.

The "coverage" doesn't start until 2006, a point where voters who aren't paying attention won't notice what this entails until after the mid-term elections.

But over the next six years, the deductibles go up by 78%. With the result that by 2011, the 95% coverage doesn't kick in until the $8,500 level, with only about $2,250 of that covered by Medicare, at an additional cost of $700 a year.

In other words, once the drug companies get done jacking their rates (and who's gonna stop them?), you'll pay $700 a year for the privilege of paying $7,250 for drugs that cost $5100 now. Whadda deal!

But wait! There's more! As a part of the drug deal Congress passed, efforts to regulate drug prices are dropped, AND it remains illegal to get the same drugs at a much lower price from Canada! Which means the drug companies can continue to strive to produce the best possible products at the lowest possible price.

Just like they have for the past ten years.

Oh, we are ROYALLY screwed!

Which means millions of Americans not only get nothing out of the deal, but they get shafted with a pickax sideways, being forced to spend thousands for less drugs.

Ain't nothing progressive about that scam, cupcakes!

The American Association for Retired People, AARP, the biggest public interest group in America, actually supported this turkey. Only now, a week after it's too late, have they realized that a large majority of their membership (63%) feel that the scam the administration sent through an obliging, paid-for Congress screwed them, and that the AARP betrayed them. Only now is AARP backtracking in confusion and disarray from promises to help promote and support the plan in meetings with its membership.

The poor really get it in the shorts. There are low-income provisions, but get a load of them, as reported by the pro-Putsch paper, Newsday: "Premiums, deductibles and coverage gaps will be waived for people earning less than $12,123 a year. To qualify for the subsidy, seniors can have no more than $6,000 in assets, other than a house. The subsidies will be phased out between $12,123 and roughly $13,500 in yearly income."

Most people have at least $6,000 in furniture, car, and clothing. And of course, if you make $13,500 a year (a princely sum indeed, you lucky ducky!) and own a late-model Buick, you don't get any of it. The same people who whine endlessly about having to pay 20% taxes on an income of one million a year have decided that making $13,500 means you don't need any help.

Employers might help. One little provision, which will cost an estimated $70 billion a year, gives the employers a dollar for dollar tax break on coverage provided for retirees beginning in 2006. Only of course, it isn't "dollar for dollar" -- the employers get to include "overhead and expenses," with no limits set on that.

Medicare has about 3% administrative overhead, and right wingers like to whine about that. Now companies will be allowed to charge as much as they feel like for providing an inferior service. Lucky us.

Another $12 billion will be provided to insurance companies willing to do the same thing that Medicare does now at 3% overhead. The bill allocates $12 billion a year for administrative overhead, which suggests they expect it to be a bit more than 3%. Again you, the taxpayer, are paying for this. Lucky ducky.

Resident aliens don't have to worry about the decline in health care quality brought about by the privatization of coverage, at least. They don't qualify for Medicare, even though they pay the same taxes, and in many cases, have paid into the system for years.

But cheer up. Health and Human Services has refused to certify Canadian drugs for prescriptions, even though they are the same goddamn drugs, made by the same goddamn companies, to the same goddamn standards. However, the administration has promised to conduct a study into the matter.

At taxpayer expense, of course.

You lucky ducky.

Posted: December 17, 2003


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