- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 19, 2000

Judging by recent events in Palm Beach, no one would ever want senior citizens to be deprived of their prescription drugs. Anyone doing so, would do it at their own peril.

In order to fix the Miami ballots, er, the Medicare budget, the Clinton-Gore plan would set up a single contractor, a Pharmaceutical Benefit Manager (PBM) in 15 defined geographic areas. Under the oversight of the Health Care Financing Administration, the PBM would administer all aspects of pharmaceutical distribution by Medicare, including the negotiation of prices with drug companies and the administration of claims. Since Medicare is the largest single purchaser of health care in the country, the result would likely be a monopsony a system in which a single buyer exerts a disproportionate impact on the market.

Historically, price controls have had the same impact on the economy that asteroids have had on the Earth: The scale of their damage is only limited by their size. A recent report by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) notes that in American history, price controls have had a distinctively destructive impact, ranging from abetting the starvation of the Continental Army at Valley Forge in the 1770s, to assisting the fuel crisis in the 1970s.

The Clinton-Gore plan has its roots in the "cheap" prescription drugs provided by the Canadian health care system. Yet the Canadian system regulates pharmaceuticals through rationing and price controls. As a result, according to the CAGW report, "Rationing and long waiting lines for treatment are endemic to health care in Canada." Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute noted the same thing. "Consider the problems besetting Canada's socialized health care system: endless waiting lists; minimal access to diagnostic technologies; patients fleeing abroad; provinces contracting out treatment to U.S. hospitals; and inadequate access to new medicines," he said. The same thing could easily happen under the Clinton-Gore plan. Earlier this year, Rep. Mark Sanford opined.

Ultimately, the model advocated by Clinton-Gore would make senior citizens even more dependent on federal largesse, possibly forcing politicians to outbid one another for additions to Medicare benefits.

The best solution to Medicare is already already available to the "right people." Federal employees including Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore, are a part of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP), in which they select from a cornucopia of competing private plans which provide drug coverage with a variety of arrangements for co-payments and deductibles. The Bipartisan Medicare Commission advocated using the FEHBP plan to modernize Medicare.

Unfortunately, the seniors in Palm Beach may have helped ensure that we swallow another dose of Mr. Gore's medicine.

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