The GOP has managed to pass its plan for
prescription drug coverage for seniors by a vote of 221 to 208. The Bush Administration and many Republicans had been championing a prescription drug benefit addition to Medicare for some time.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the GOP proposal may be a decent implementation of a bad idea. As many conservatives in the House noted, this creates yet another federal entitlement that could be the egg to a very large white elephant. The plan would spend $320 billion over the next decade starting in 2005, a large sum of money. (And naturally, as with all government accounting standards, this price will skyrocket as the plan is implemented.) Granted, it’s better than the Democrat’s plan which featured much more stringent government controls into the pharmaceutical market. (Of course, the Democrats are complaining that the Republican bill is the product of the "big pharmaceutical" lobby, and Gephardt cracked when describing his poor 94-year-old grandmother who needs expensive eye medication, despite the fact that there’s no reason why he couldn’t help poor old Granny out with his rich federal pension plan…)
Instead of creating entitlements, Congress should be looking at why the regulatory climate is helping to jack up the price of drugs. Already, one plan was rejected out of hand by the GOP leadership:
Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) pressed his goal of trying to lower drug costs by allowing pharmaceuticals manufactured in the United States to be reimported from Mexico and Canada, where they are sold less expensively, and he scoffed at Hastert’s offer to return to the issue in the future. "I looked at the speaker and said, ‘Do you think I have ‘stupid’ tattooed on my forehead?’‚" he recounted.
It’s simply bad form to reject such efforts out of hand in favor of creating more entitlement programs. Rather than spending more government money on handing out drugs, the best way is to lower the costs by trimming regulation, streamlining the drug approval process and create additional incentives for cheaper drugs. Unfortunately, it appears as the politics of entitlement have trumped common sense once again.