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Favorable Medicare Access
The Times points out that most of the criticisms of the Medicare drug benefit seem to have been overstated or are in the process of being resolved.
Saturday marked the end of the three-month transition of the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage to private insurer formularies. Critics clamored that the switch to the new formularies was certain to create access problems and leave patients without the prescription drugs they need, but the facts do not support these dire predictions.
Critics are also deeply uncomfortable with the precedent that the Medicare drug plan sets: that seniors can choose from a wide range of private plans with a variety of premiums and deductibles, without the traditional price controls that have been imposed in doctors and hospitals who accept Medicare patients. There is, they sense, a real challenge to the government status quo, and they are correct.
Still, if Medicare reform stops with Part D, we can be assured that price controls on pharmaceuticals won't be far behind, as they are already applied to hospital and physicians charges in the rest of the Medicare program. Additional reforms—including means-testing, and privatization of Medicare benefits (perhaps through HSAs, or vouchers)—would help inject more market discipline into the program and place Medicare on a sounder financial trajectory.
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