Should Americans Surrender Their Freedom for Government Drugs?
By Richard E. Ralston
September 8, 2003
A Congressional conference committee is now attempting to reach a
compromise between a bad Medicare prescription drug bill passed by
the House and a worse drug bill passed by the Senate. The only
possible outcome is something awfuland President Bush, who is
pressuring Republicans to compromise, has pledged to sign
practically any bill to emerge.
Citizens who care about their health, their finances, and their
freedom can only hope that the Senate and House of Representatives
reject whatever comes out of the conference committee.
Both bills propose the largest expansion of government in nearly 40
years. With the federal budget running the largest deficit in
history, even the grossly underestimated additional cost of $400
billion over ten years is an outrageous burden on taxpayers. If both
Social Security and Medicare are in crisis over the prospect of
millions of Baby Boomers, this Medicare drug bill can only make
matters much worse. Yet this is the least important fault of this
Despite being among the richest generations of older humans over age
65 in history, retired Americans, according to those who favor
Medicare drug subsidies, can't afford prescription drugs. There's no
doubt drug costs are rising, but where is the evidence that most
seniors have to choose between drugs and dinner?
On the contrary, the last 30 years have seen the most phenomenal
growth in new drugs in historydrugs that improve both the
quality and the length of life. People are living longer, better
lives due to the brilliant scientific breakthroughs produced by U.S.
But Bush and the bill's Congressional proponents apparently believe
that drug companiesconfronted by price controls and new Medicare
regulations dictating which drugs doctors can prescribe for seniorswill continue to spend $22 billion on research and development.
The biggest bait and switch lies in the delusion that the plan will
actually pay for prescriptions. Bill proponents don't say much about
higher Medicare premiums or bigger co-payments, or rising
deductibles, or restrictive formularies, which include many low cost
drugsbut not the drugs doctors prefer to prescribe. Your doctor
will continue to recommend what you need. The government will decide
what you get.
Some people do have a hard time paying for their prescriptions. They
would have an easier time if they were not taxed for the dollars
they spend on prescriptions and free market reforms, such as
tax-free medical savings accounts, are more likely to help than a
handout with strings attached.
But the fact that some people have a tough time paying for drugs
does not make it right for the government to force everyone to use
and pay for government-run health care. Someone's need is not a
claim on everyone else's income. If you have trouble paying for your
prescriptions now, just wait until you have to pay for everyone's
The politiciansfrom virtually every Congressman to President
Bush, who has vowed to sign almost any Medicare expansion bill
regardless of cost or merithave it half-right. The way Americans
buy prescription drugsindeed, the way Americans finance their
use of the medical professiondesperately needs an expansion.
But politicians, as usual, have the drug issue exactly backwards:
what ought to be expanded is not government-controlled medicine.
What ought to be expanded is freedom - the freedom to choose, pay
for and control one's health care. Congress and the White House
ought to embrace the concept of choice in medicine and kill the
Medicare prescription drug bill.
Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.
Copyright © 2003 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.
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