MORE ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS….Jon Cohn returns to the Medicare prescription drug debacle with a simple question: are the kinds of problems we’re seeing just the inevitable startup bugs you get with any big new government program? He takes a look back at the start of Medicare itself to get the answer:
So what happened on the day that this complex program was implemented? Thousands of senior citizens simply went to the hospital and got the health care they needed. “There were no crises that I remember,” says Yale University political scientist Theodore Marmor, who worked in the office overseeing Medicare implementation and went on to write The Politics of Medicare, the program’s definitive history. Newspaper accounts from the ’60s back him up. Under the headline “medicare takes over easily,” a Post writer described the program’s first day as “a smooth transition, undramatic as a bed change.” Three weeks later, the Times affirmed that “medicare’s start has been smooth.”
There’s nothing inevitable about the chaos we’re seeing with the prescription drug rollout. If the program had been designed with patients in mind, it would have rolled out smoothly. But it wasn’t. It was designed to benefit corporate special interests and to provide a test bed for crackpot free market theories.
What’s more, we haven’t even begun to hit the “donut hole” problems. That should start happening a couple of months before the midterm elections, which is poetic justice indeed. By then I hope that everyone knows exactly which party was responsible for all this.
UPDATE: Michael Hiltzik’s column today is a pretty good wrapup of the whole prescription drug debacle.