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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Donuts and chickens

By Keith Schmitz

As warned, lots of senior citizens are hitting the Medicare donut hole where their drug coverage suddenly goes away. The New York Times this morning points out that sometime this year over thee million of the people on the plan will find they will have to come up with the money to cover the drugs they need to live.

And for many GOP the chickens will be coming home to roost. If we go by the averages, most of these seniors will see the trap door open up around say, November.

To make matters worse for themselves, the conservatives fell into their own fantasies of the power of consumer in the medical market.
Melvin A. Kinnison, 65, of Huntington Beach, Calif., a retired deputy sheriff with diabetes and prostate cancer, said: “The drug benefit was fine for a while, until the doughnut hole came around. It was a total surprise. Nobody ever explained it to me.”

As any economist will tell you, power in the market comes from information. Imagine your 85 year old mother trying to negotiate the labyrinth of details of the new Medicare plan overlaid with the fear that a screw up could affect the benefits – and you trying to explain it to her.

But now the real power will come from the payback from these seniors who love to vote against the politicians duplicitous in this scheme.
Lawmakers do not defend the coverage gap as sound health policy. Rather, they say, it was a way to limit the cost of the new program while providing some benefits to almost everyone, comprehensive coverage to low-income people and generous catastrophic coverage to people with high drug costs.

For many of these lawmakers such as Mark Green they should have thought beyond the urging of K Street lobbyists to come up with a plan that could have done a better job of covering seniors. What is amazing is the beltway bubble these people live in where they had no idea how this would play at home.

In the Wisconsin gubernatorial election and many close Congressional races across the country these seniors will not let these lawmakers forget who gave them the job in the first place. Work the numbers. About over 8,000 people will be digging into their own pockets at Walgreens and CVS. That could eat into Jim Sensenbrenner's margin, and Bryan Kennedy would have to be foolish not to cash in. And though Bryan keeps a trim profile, he will not pass up on this donut.

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