As elders are encouraged to sign for one of many Prescription Drug Discount Cards I am reminded of the famous Trojan horse given as a gift to the enemies of Greece and allowed to be placed inside the walls of a fortified city. Just like the Trojan horse, the Modernization of the Medicare Program has been interpreted as a gift to 41 million elders and disabled adults and just like the Trojan horse “this gift” may take away the security and dignity of elders, baby boomers and for generations to come. The Medicare Modernization Act is intended to change and limit the government’s role in providing for the most vulnerable citizens in our society. The Act breaks the safety net for our elders and disabled adults.
The symbol of the Trojan Horse is appropriate because all along the administration’s plan has never been to show transparency in its actions. On the contrary, the plan has been and will continue to be to distract the public until the men hiding inside this Trojan horse are ready to come out, and when they do, their true intentions will be known, but it will be too late for elders and disabled adults to react.
Before we sign on with the administration’s plan and rush to become a member of a Discount Card program let us look inside this Trojan horse:
- The Medicare Modernization Act provides for 400 Billion over the next 10 years for prescription drug benefits, but if we look deeper the great percentage of the allocation goes directly to pharmaceutical companies and not to individual elders; making this budget gift not a gift to elders, but to pharmaceutical companies.
- If we look inside this „gift‰ we also see a subsidy to employers for providing retirees drug benefits, a subsidy that will open the door for employers to transfer the costs of the drug benefits to retirees. This shifting of cost from employer to retirees benefits the corporations and state government pension plans, but should be troubling to million of retirees that now are receiving drug benefit coverage from their former employers.
- The Medicare Modernization Act contains what has been called a “doughnut hole” this means that elders that are not indigent would have to cover the cost of medication out of their own pockets until that cost reaches the maximum cost stipulated within the limits of that doughnut hole. The doughnut hole is designed to get bigger and bigger as the year passes, from $2,850 in 2006 to $5,066 in 2013. By the time the baby boomers are expected to retire the hole in their pockets will be much bigger. But by that time 2013 the Medicare Modernization Act would have achieved the fragmentation of Elder Power and as such would have dismantled any possibility of repealing this Trojan horse, this “gift” to elders.
- Despite what appears to be a commitment of resources to elders, baby boomers and caregivers, the average elder will be worse off with the Modernization of the Medicare Act that he or she is now. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the prescription drug spending will continue to rise from 8.8% of median income in 2006 to 12.3% of median income in 2013. This increase is not reflected in the law’s inflation adjustment. The Medicare Modernization law is based on the prescription drug inflation and not in the income of the nation’s elders and individuals with disabilities. The income of our elders and individuals with disabilities is not projected to grow at the same rate as the prescription drug spending.
- Of all the hidden traps inside the Medicare Trojan horse, the worst yet is the artificial limit of 45% of general revenues on the financing of the Medicare Program. This measure, complete ignored by the media and by the general public, is designed to automatically cut the Medicare program. The way the provision is worded, it is designed to cut benefits with no political consequences to be paid by the present administration. This section of the Modernization of the Medicare Act alone deserves for the entire Act to be repealed. It deserves the mobilization of 41 million elders in unison because of the uncertainty it creates. How soon will elders be impacted by this trap? As soon as 2005 and definitely in 2006. This hidden section of the act will force cutbacks in the Medicare program, but by then the power of elders will be gone and the election will be secured.
Why does the administration want every elder to sign for a Prescription Drug Card as soon as possible? Because the more elders understand the Medicare Modernization Act, the sooner they begin to see what they have lost for their generation and for generations to come. The sooner we begin to comprehend that this gift is truly a Modern Trojan Horse, the better prepared we will be to defend our quality of life and to demand the repeal of the entire Act before it is too late.
Dr. Gema Hernández