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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Real Crisis, Still No Plan

According to the (subscription-only) Wall Street Journal today, the Bush administration quietly announced that the premiums Medicare beneficiaries pay for doctor’s visits and other outpatient care are expected to jump 12 percent next year. And that number could ultimately drift up towards the 17 percent increase that was imposed this year if Congress, as expected, boosts Medicare payments to physicians to keep them from abandoning the program. Administration officials are said to hope the impact of this premium spiral will be cushioned by the advent of the new Rx drug benefit next year. But there’s a catch, of course: most beneficiaries will have to pay additional premiums to get that coverage, which is itself pretty limited. Does the administration have a plan to deal with the growing Medicare crisis? Of course not. That would involve admitting the GOP didn’t “fix” Medicare two years ago, and might also distract attention from the administration’s relentless drive to gain acceptance for a “plan” that’s not really a plan, to deal with a Social Security “crisis” that’s not really a crisis. And these guys sure wouldn’t interrupt themselves from one mistake to admit another.

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