Money Driven Medicine: Rewriting the Storyline on the Prescription Drug Benefit
by Maggie Mahar, Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 05:11:46 PM EDT
In the June 6 edition of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol underlines a new spin on the prescription drug plan: "the May 15 deadline for signing up for the Medicare prescription drug benefit passed with some 90 percent of eligible seniors enrolled, and most of them telling pollsters they're pretty happy. Given early rumblings that the program might be a nightmare of red tape, this is good news for the administration."
Which polls? He didn't say, of course. And as of mid-March, only 6 million of the 27 million who had signed up chose to do so. Of the rest, many were automatically enrolled, and in the weeks that followed, many enrolled to avoid a May 15 deadline which promised lifetime penalties. Kristol was lying, in other words, but it's the kind of lie that's so tempting for journalists looking for a new angle. And it's working. Journalists have already begun re-writing the prescription drug story line. Rather than calling it an "unmitigated disaster" or pointing out how the bill was passed through open bribery and corrupt lobbying by pharmaceutical companies, they're beginning to portray it as a work in progress" -- a perspective that that has been picked up by newspapers across the nation.
The storyline goes like this, roughly. Sure, the plan may need some "fine-tuning," but "the cost of the drug benefit has declined from a projected $737 billion over 10 years to $675 billion." In other words, it's only costing taxpayers $275 billion more than the administration pretended when it pushed the bill through Congress.
It's pretty nice of those pharmaceutical companies to save us so much money. We can spend it on another fresh coat of paint for the schools in Iraq.