- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2001

Seniors are sick of Medicare the hassles, the paperwork, the heavy-handed bureaucracy. They can now thank President George W. Bush for trying to cure some of what ails them.
Mr. Bush recently took an important first step toward Medicare reform and proposed a new prescription drug discount plan. For a one-time enrollment fee not to exceed $25, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to sign up for a drug discount plan approved by the federal government. Discounts will be available on mail-order as well as prescriptions bought at local pharmacies, with the largest discounts applying to generic mail-order drugs. Medicare beneficiaries will be allowed to switch plans twice a year. The plan will take effect Jan. 1.
Participating pharmacies may end up selling drugs at reduced rates, but they may well make up for it in new customers. After all, about 13 million or so Medicare beneficiaries currently lack insurance coverage for such prescription drugs. Presumably, many of them will be healthy beneficiaries of the president's plan, but so will the rest of Medicare recipients, since they will finally have some pharmaceutical flexibility.
Indeed, the president's plan properly seems to be largely about choices: If seniors choose to join, they can choose from a variety of competing public and private plans. Instead of continuing to be straitjacketed by government controlled services, seniors will finally be given much needed flexibility in the plans that they choose from the same flexibility that federal employees, including members of Congress, already have.
It is probably well that the president will be able to carry out his plan without the consent of Congress. After all, Medicare desperately needs significant structural reforms reforms that singularly failed to be carried out during the Clinton years. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's overlook of the estimated 44 million uninsured Americans during his rush to pass a lawyers' er patients' bill of rights, augurs ill for future Senate action on necessary health-care reforms.
Instead, Mr. Daschle joined the rest of the Democratic chorus of demagoguery, led by Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who sputtered that the idea was "a placebo, not a prescription." Ohio Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown complained that the president's outline "conceals a scheme for privatization of Medicare."
If it doesn't, it certainly should. After all, the private sector has a knack for making the things that people need, such as pharmaceuticals, at the prices they are willing to pay. It is bureaucratic mandates that make seniors sick. Mr. Bush has proffered Medicare the best prescription possible small doses of choice and competition.

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