Friday, January 13, 2006

A Bitter Pill

President Bush calls his administration’s new Medicare federal prescription drug plan the most significant advance in that program in 40 years. Officials in California and several other states call it a public-health emergency.

Given the green light by Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger, Golden State officials have ordered emergency action to cover drug costs for 1 million senior citizens, or about one-fifth of the state’s poor and disabled elderly residents, who had been denied life-saving medications or charged exorbitant amounts because of glitches in the new program.

Similar actions are being taken in Illinois and Alabama, among other states.

Medicare officials in Washington said they were dismayed by the problems and are working around the clock to resolve them.

The Los Angeles Times summarized the debacle thusly:

The problems with the Medicare drug benefit do not yet seem serious enough to lead to an immediate repeal effort.

But the spectacle of governors bailing out Washington, poor people unable to get their medications and pharmacists angry over not getting paid could damage the Bush administration's credibility on healthcare — an important election-year issue that the White House wants to showcase in President Bush's State of the Union speech, which is scheduled for Jan. 31.

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