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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday ó March 26, 2004


New Medicare law
is bad joke

When President George W. Bush ran for office, he characterized his platform as "Compassionate Conservatism." Nearly four years later, that characterization is looking like a bad joke.

Finding compassionate conservatism in the Bush administration is like looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Too often, words used by this administration to describe policies and upcoming actions have not matched the results. The latest casualty of Bushís compassionate conservatism is Medicare.

The administrationís "overhaul" of Medicare is neither compassionate nor conservative. It is a looming disaster.

Government Medicare trustees issued their annual report three days ago. It shows that Medicare will start dipping into its trust fund this year and will be completely broke in 15 years. The report states that provisions of the Medicare overhaul that Bush signed into law in December "raise serious doubt about the sustainability of Medicare under current financing arrangements."

The overhaul was proposed as a way to give private insurers a larger role in Medicare in order to control long-term costs. The Bush administration convinced Congress to pass the law by promising a brand new prescription drug benefit for seniors. Yet, since the president signed the new law, the administration has acknowledged that it will cost $534 billion over 10 yearsó$139 billion more than the original $395 billion estimate.

This $139 million "mistake" is outrageous even for an administration notorious for bad budget forecasts, cronyism and corporate ties.

Richard Foster, the nationís top Medicare actuary projected the higher cost well before Congress voted. He says his boss, former Medicare administrator Thomas Scully, threatened to fire him if he gave the real numbers to Congress.

Karl Rove, Bushís chief handler and spinmeister, described the Medicare issue as "Much ado about nothing." We beg to differ. One hundred billion of the publicís money is a far cry from nothing, but itís no distance at all from political corruption.

The main beneficiaries of the Medicare overhaul will be private insurance and drug companies. Itís becoming clear that they stand to benefit at the expense of health care for older Americans

The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether threats or bribes were used to pass the Medicare bill in the House. If the Bush administration purposely concealed from Congress the true cost of the overhaul, it engaged in the worst kind of public fraud.

Maybe Bush should ditch the Compassionate Conservatism description this election year for one thatís looking more accurate: Corrupt Cronyism.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.