- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2003

Now that the Republican prescription-drug bill has passed the House and Senate and is set to be signed by the president, partisan hitmen are taking their best shots at the new Medicare provisions. It will ruin the Medicare system and leave countless seniors with no drugs, say the naysayers. That’s the way the game is played in Washington. In this case, however, criticism of the bill is falling on mostly deaf ears.

Chief among the proponents was the AARP, a powerful Washington-based group which has 35 million members. The organization poured millions into an advertising blitz in favor of passage and has acted as clearinghouse for supportive data about the bill from analysts at other health-care, patient-support and senior-citizen interest groups nationwide. Among the several hundred groups backing the new plan are the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Council on the Aging, the Patient Advocacy Association and the Catholic Health Association.

Another major institution that promoted the bill passed last week was the American Diabetes Association. The group “strongly urged” congressmen to vote for the package, saying it would “improve the lives of millions of seniors living with diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes.” More than 18 million Americans have diabetes. Expenditures attributable to the disease were approximately $132 billion in the United States in 2002 alone. As much as 40 percent of Medicare costs are related to diabetes.

One serious impediment to combating the disease is that not enough focus is placed on early screening and other preventative practices. For example, the current Medicare system will not pay for tests or lifestyle training that can head trouble off early. The ADA’s experts are convinced that the the recently passed prescription-drug bill will push Medicare in a more progressive direction toward more preventative care. In the long run, this saves billions in medical costs. The ADA is not a partisan group looking to boost Republican policies. It is concerned about one thing only: preventing and curing diabetes. The ADA supports the new program.

In a poll conducted by the AARP two weeks ago, 75 percent of the organization’s membership backed passage of the prescription-drug bill. The AARP and other groups have initiated a campaign to educate Americans on the benefits of the reforms. Diabetes care is just one example of the progress that will be made. As for the criticisms of the package, even the New York Times editorialized that, “Fears that the legislation contains seeds that will ultimately destroy the traditional Medicare program strike us as overblown.” More to the point, it strengthens Medicare for the future.

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