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SENIOR DRUG BENEFIT STINKS LIKE A PANDERING POLITICIAN
by Frank Kaiser
Talk about Medicare fraud! Congress and the President are pulling off the hoodwink of the century. It's a $400 billion swindle. And you and I are the victims.

For each of the past eight years, Washington has assured us that any day now lightning would strike and our ever-mounting prescription drug payment worries would be over.

Hallelujah, the sky's about to open spreading manna throughout the land! Or so they say. Best of all, we're told, under the proposed Medicare Reform Bill, we won't have to join a managed-care plan after all.

Well, not this second, anyway.

As the Senate's bill stands now, we'll pay "an average of" 35 bucks a month, and the first $275 of our yearly drug costs, then trusty Medicare will step up to the plate and pay half of all our expensive pharmaceuticals from there on out.

Well, not exactly. At $2,250, just when you desperately need help, coverage stops, not to start again until you've reached $5,100 in drug expenses. Wily politicians call that the "hole in the donut."

I call that the gap that ate my budget. But the greedheads in Washington, not having a hole in their far sweeter donut, think that's a cute way to describe disaster. In fact, they voted down an amendment to provide us with a drug benefit equal to what federal employees get.

Still, this has got to be a big help for seniors, right?

Say you have $1,000 in drug bills. Under the proposed Senate plan, those drugs will now cost you only $1,057.

Huh? Little wonder Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., calls collecting the $35 premiums "really nothing more than a tax on the sick." And seniors with higher drug costs of, say, $5,000, must still pay $3,695.

Canada's Still Far Cheaper

Nothing's really changed. For most of us, it will still be far cheaper to buy our medicines in Canada.

John Rother of the AARP says his research reveals that as few as 20 percent of seniors will buy into this new drug benefit once they know the facts. He states, "There are billions of dollars hidden away in here for providers. The money Congress set aside was supposed to be for a drug benefit."

Providers? I thought this bill was an extension of Medicare.

It just so happens that the House version perpetrating this fraud gets rid of Medicare altogether. Bet you didn't know that.

Suddenly, our lightning strike of good fortune looks more like some smoke and mirror trick conjured up by Newt Gingrich, fulfilling his dream of allowing Medicare to "wither on the vine."

Meanwhile, Teddy Kennedy and George Bush are planning a Rose Garden hug-in when the President signs the bill into law. "Hopefully before July 4th," says Bush.

Hopefully before seniors learn that this bill is a sham, nothing but a shadow of what they need.

Could that be the reason these so-called drug benefits don't go into effect until 2006, long after the next presidential election? I find it odd that Congress and the President can pass tax cuts for the wealthy retroactive to last year, yet must wait two and a half years before implementing this long-awaited "drug benefit."

When it does take effect, the bill will cover about $40 billion a year — we have failed weapons systems that cost more than that — while experts predict that seniors currently need $160 billion a year to pay for their prescription drugs.

Looks like our politicians will have screwed us again, growing fatter than butchers' dogs stuffed chockablock with legal bribes from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

They think we're fools. And, unless we do something to stop this charade, they will be right.

There's still time to get a fairer, more reasonable bill. One that keeps Medicare, and has Medicare pay for our medicines, putting billions more in benefits instead of stuffing the pockets of insurance execs.

If every one of us calls ten friends, and every one of them calls ten friends, and we all call Washington's bluff telling our so-called representatives that this current bill is an outrage, it will be changed pronto.

But unless they know that we're on to them, our fat cat politicians will pass this "tax on the sick" and cynically brag about it from here to the next election.

This bill stinks like the pandering politicians pushing to pass it.

Let's get everyone to talk to his or her congressperson and senators now, today. Use Congress' toll free number: (877) 331-2000. Let's not let them get away with screwing us and enriching themselves once again in the name of "healthcare for seniors."

Copyright © 2003 — Frank Kaiser

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FOREVER AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE

Remember? You were going to live forever. Today, the you that you think you are and the you that others see are unrecognizable one to the other. Trust me on this.

Read Frank's belated valentine to the Class of 1953.

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