First of all, I am thoroughly disappointed in Daschle & co., and the way they caved in royally on the Repub's awful Medicare bill. Of course, because its implementation isn't until 2006, Democrats wont be able to point to its effects, but Bush will be able to say he passed sweeping Medicare reforms. This is going to make it that much harder for Dean/Clark/whoever to top Bush next year.
But all this assumes that seniors are going to buy the tripe that Congress and Bush just fed them. Will they? The NY Times' Robert Pear talks to some who don't.
"We've been waiting, waiting for this prescription drug bill to provide some relief to seniors, but it won't do much for them, not much at all," said Lorraine M. Angelotti, 72, of Fort Lauderdale. "You would have to be a major, major user of very expensive medications to get any kind of halfway decent benefit."I have a feeling that the Bushies just might have unerestimated the intelligence and political awareness of the senior vote. A pretty impressive feat indeed, from the Marie Antoinette administration. And if seniors didn't expect Republicans to not look out for them, they should have seen Dubya's regard for veteran's benefits, financial compensation for families of heroes who die in combat, and so on.
The drug benefit has often been described as the biggest expansion of Medicare since its creation in 1965. Some people here, especially those who have been struggling to pay for prescription drugs, applauded the change. But Ernest D. DeBlasis, 73, echoed the view of many when he said the new coverage "amounts to peanuts."
"It's not going to help me," said Mr. DeBlasis, who spends half the year here and half in Marlboro, N.J., where he was an architect. "Let's hope Congress revises this thing before it takes effect in 2006."
John Anasis, 81, said he did not like the structure of the drug benefit.
"It's not straightforward," said Mr. Anasis, who moved here three years ago from West Yarmouth, Mass., where he and his wife ran a travel and insurance business.
Several Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 75 said they would need lawyers to figure out the new benefits. The options could be even more complex than they realize. Under the bill, insurers could offer variations of the standard drug benefit.
Joseph S. Shapiro, 89, out for his morning stroll on the boardwalk, said: "People have to pray that they get very ill. If you are in semi-bad shape, you get very little or nothing from the new Medicare bill."
A major reason for the convoluted shape of the drug benefit is that Congress and President Bush wanted to limit the cost to $400 billion over 10 years.
In separate interviews, several Medicare beneficiaries questioned the priorities of officials in Washington.
"If they can send $87 billion to Iraq and Afghanistan this year, I think they could do a little better for our citizens, especially senior citizens who are on fixed incomes," said Tony J. Forzese, 71, a small-business man from Massachusetts who has had a condominium here for 20 years.
Annual spending on the new drug benefit would start at $26 billion in 2006, rising steadily to $73 billion in 2013, the Congressional Budget Office says.
Of the new drug benefit, Mr. Forzese said: "I don't expect to get much out of it. I don't think it will help unless I really get sick and need a lot of medicines."
I'm always a bit wary about the occasoinal Democrat strategy, seemingly employed by Daschle and friends here, of letting the conservatives walk into their own trap by passing flawed legislation that they really want. A similar attitude didn't really work in California (letting Arnold make all those unreasonable, and in some cases, already-broken promises without much of a response). The problem? Republican goals in these matters are much less about policy objectives and much more about consolidation of power. The Medicare bill was part of Bush's re-election strategy. Democrats let him get it passed, and if it catapults him to a victory next November, it's the Dems' own damn fault.