One More Reason To Hate the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit


It's proving to be extremely popular with the elderly (odd how free or subsidized prescriptions become popular among beneficiaries, isn't it?). Reports the Wash Post:

Polls indicate that more than 80 percent of enrollees are satisfied, even though nearly half chose plans with no coverage in the doughnut hole, a gap that opens when a senior's drug costs reach $2,250 and closes when out-of-pocket expenses reach $3,600. By the latest estimates, 3 million to 4 million seniors will hit the doughnut hole this year and pay full price for drugs while also paying drug-plan premiums.

More here.

To gain some perspective on the plight of seniors and prescription drugs, dial the Wayback Machine to 2000, when current Reason Associate Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward was an intern and pointing out these surprising stats:

Senior citizens are America's most thoroughly insured group. They are all entitled to Medicare, which covers doctor visits and hospital care. While Medicare only covers prescription drugs consumed at a hospital, four in five seniors already have coverage for drugs, either through private insurance or a managed-care plan. House Democrats spent much of last year commissioning studies on the prices seniors pay for prescription drugs, an effective ploy that amassed press coverage back home and shined the spotlight on the high price of some prescription drugs. Yet seniors spend a surprisingly small portion of their total income–3.2 percent–on drugs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To put this figure in perspective, seniors spend, on average, 5.3 percent of their income on entertainment.

More here. So in 2000, 80 percent of seniors (4 out of 5) has drug coverage and the typical senior was spending a whopping 3.2 percent of their income on drugs. But thank god for the largest entitlement expansion since Medicare was itself created back in the '60s. It's the only thing between the elderly eating cat food on a daily basis, right? Few problems are easier to solve than those that weren't problems to begin with.