Who Has the Better Prescription?
Bush plugs his Medicare drug bill, while Kerry looks north of the border
(MONEY Magazine) – BUSH'S CLAIM: The $400 billion Medicare bill he signed in December offers drug coverage to seniors in 2006 that will lower the amount they pay for prescriptions. "Leaders of both political parties had promised prescription-drug coverage in campaign after campaign," Bush says. "We got the job done."
THE REALITY: Job 70% done. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that out-of-pocket drug costs ,for seniors will average $792 in 2006 vs. $1,257 if the plan didn't exist. But not everyone saves. Seniors spending $800 or less (about 30% of the eligible population) typically won't benefit.
KERRY'S CLAIM: To really cut senior's bills, the U.S. government should negotiate prices with pharmaceutical firms. Americans should also be allowed to buy price-controlled drugs from Canada. The Bush law "isn't a prescription-drug benefit for seniors," Kerry says. "It's a benefit for prescription-drug companies."
THE REALITY: Medicare sets hospital and doctor rates but still has to swallow full price for drugs under the new law. "No way can Medicare continue to buy drugs at retail and every other service at wholesale," says Stuart Altman, a health policy professor at Brandeis (and Kerry adviser). But, he cautions, legalizing drug sales from Canada could prompt our neighbor to cut Americans off. --ADRIENNE CARTER