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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Medicare Prescription Drugs: Democratic Debacle or Republican Albatross?

The CW is still that GOP-led passage of a Medicare prescription drugs bill–any Medicare prescription drug bill–gives the GOP an additional boost for 2004.  The more DR thinks about this, the less sure he is that it is true.  That’s because of how bad the bill is likely to be and the probable reaction of those whom it is intended to benefit.
On how bad it is likely to be, check out Jacob Hacker’s excellent analysis today in The New York Times.  He lays out, crisply and clearly, just how godawful both the Senate and, especially, the House bills are.  Talk about the devil is in the details.  And then take a gander at another Times article about how employers are going to run, not walk, to shift as many drug costs as they can onto Uncle Sam.  As Hacker points out, the average retiree is going to wind up not much better–maybe worse!–than where they started out.
This isn’t exactly what your typical senior voter had in mind.  That’s why savvy nonpartisan analyst Charlie Cook predicts that “If the prescription drug benefit is a factor in next year’s election, it will be as an albatross around the necks of Republicans and the Bush administration.”  He argues that what seniors want is a drug benefit like a Fortune 500 company might provide–modest premium, minimal co-pay, no gaps and unlimited coverage–and they want it provided through Medicare.  What they’re likely going to get doesn’t look anything like that and when they figure this out–and Cook thinks they will–it will be the Republicans who’ll pay the price.