Milton and Rose Friedman once wrote, “What would you think of someone who said, ‘I would like to have a cat provided it barked?’” The context was a missive in which they argued that the laws of bureaucracy are like the laws of biology: pretty inflexible. “The biological laws that specify the characteristics of cats are no more rigid than the political laws that specify the behavior of governmental agencies once they are established,” they wrote. Centralized bureaucracy is by its nature slow and cumbersome and it’s foolish to think it’s going to be anything but that. Yet some people persist in thinking that better management will solve everything.
Many critics of the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit (also known as “Part D”) seem never to have perused the Friedmans. For example, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) complains about a “privatized prescription drug plan so confusing and complex millions of seniors have not signed up.” Over at the leftist blog TPM Cafe, Kate Steadman gripes that in order to meet the Department of Health and Humans Services’ enrollment goal, “more than 10 million will have to overcome the ‘choice,’ confusion, and frustration to participate in the drug benefit.”
While the problems with the Prescription Drug benefit have been exaggerated for political purposes (see this Washington Post article for a more sanguine report), there are, undoubtedly, many seniors who find it confusing. Naturally, the critics think they could design a much better program. NCPSSM calls for a benefit that allows “seniors to get prescription drugs directly from Medicare while requiring Medicare to negotiate the lowest prices for seniors.” Steadman claims that “the simple way of designing this bill was to just add drug coverage to Part B (the outpatient services insurance) and adjust premiums accordingly.” “The first problem with Part D, unlike Medicare,” she also claims, “is that enrollment is opt-in, rather than opt-out.”p>The problems with the Prescription Drug benefit stem not from flaws in its design. Rather, as the experience with the initiation of Medicare shows, they are the natural consequence of trying to enroll millions of people in a government program over a relatively short period of time. Similar problems occurred during the initiation of Medicare in 1966. In 1966 most seniors were automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A, which covers hospitalization. Yet a New York Times article from September of that year noted that the “complexity of the Federal Medicare program…has caused much confusion among the older persons it was designed to protect against the economic hazards of illness.” Furthermore, br> /p>
Plan participants are raising questions about the formula used to arrive at “reasonable costs” the Government will pay for hospital and medical services, and about the requirement of a physician’s certification of the need for certain services.br> In a previous article that year, the Times reported that, br>
Though the Federal Medicare program for persons aged 65 went into effect last Friday, there apparently remains a good deal of confusion about what supplemental private insurance is being offered and whether it is worth buying.br> At the time, Medicare Part B was optional. According to another
That confusion, as well as the belief that Medicare alone provides sufficient protection, prompted many persons to allow existing policies to expire on July 1, without even considering the supplemental plans being offered by the companies.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?