Oh, excuse me. It�s the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act. But it was passed in the dead of night back in
2003. And the good old-fashioned forces of privatization had their hands in it
then and still do today. Unfortunately, they now have the help of some
well-meaning patsies, believe it or not, such as the NAACP and the League of
United Latin American Citizens.
You remember in 2003, Medicare (and George W. Bush) came up with Part D,
the drug benefit for seniors. Unlike the rest of Medicare, Part D doesn�t come
directly from the government. You can only purchase it through private drug
plans (barking like dogs for seniors� business). The bill also hiked payments
to Medicare Advantage plans, funneling more money to insurance companies.
So, Medicare, originally a system that paid senior�s medical bills
directly, is more and more becoming a government system which pays the
insurance industry to provide coverage. We got a middleman, so a lot of the
money never makes it to the people Medicare meant it for. Sound familiar? That�s
our GOP: Grand Old Privatizers.
Going back to Part D, the private drug plans take a costly cut, via a
layer of insurance bureaucracy. This cabal also has much less clout to bargain
for lower drug prices than real government programs like Medicaid and the
Veterans Health Administration. If Congress cut out the middleman, it most
probably would have a drug plan without the damn doughnut hole, the gap in
coverage once annual drug expenses go over $2400 a year, and without a higher
Also, the Medicare Advantage plans cost taxpayers 12 percent more per
recipient than standard Medicare. That subsidy over the next five years will
cost more than $50 billion, which could be used to cover every kid in America
with health insurance. Sure, �some� of that $50 billion will go to seniors in
extra benefits, but a lot will go to insurance company �overhead,� marketing,
and profits. That�s privatization in a nutshell, the old shell game, follow the
Now with the Democrats� fall victory, you�d figure these things would
change. But the D-news gets dumber and dumber.
First the Senate bailed on further debating a bill, in essence killing
it, which would have allowed Medicare to bargain over drug prices. Yes, the
bill wasn�t strong enough to get big discounts, but it would have introduced
the notion of bargaining to get a better deal. In fact, in spite of all-out
support for price negotiation, 42 Republican senators voted no on having the
bill go forward. That�s part of privatization, jumping ship on seniors, kids,
poor people and vets, so big corporations can suck up more money.
Now, if we can�t even get a bit of bargaining to begin with, how do we
get to repair the damage done already by the 2003 act? That is, short of
showing up at Congress� steps with walkers, canes, and a double shot of Viagra.
Only it�s not funny, it�s pathetic. We need legislation for Medicare recipients
to have the option of receiving their drug coverage directly from the
government, without slipping insurance companies a piece of the action. That
may seem out of reach, but it�s worth taking a swing at. Seniors, start making
phone calls and writing letters again. It ain�t over �til it�s over.
On top of that, let�s call for Medicare to bring down those Medicare
Advantage payments. Unfortunately, here�s where our friends at the NAACP and
the League of United Latin American Citizens are becoming part of the problem,
not the solution. We love you but listen . . .
Through sheer disinformation, false claims by the insurance industry,
both worthy groups have been led to believe that minorities benefit
disproportionately (on the high side) from this subsidy. This claim in one word
is �baloney�; in several words, it has been completely debunked in a study by
the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But the truth isn�t getting
through. So wake up NAACP and United Latin American Citizens. Together we
stand, divided we fall. And these finks want us to fall, one and all. Get that
if you get nothing else.
What�s more, middle class people of every stripe are asking for
universal health care for one good reason. Nobody wants the fear of losing
health insurance in old age. And, even as we speak about universal insurance,
our old enemies, the privatizers, are chewing away at Medicare. Those others
mentioned, who should know better, are patting them on the back, when they
should be booting them in the butt.
Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.