Dingell Bills

His father voted for the bill in Congress creating Social Security in 1935, and, like him, Rep. John Dingell, Jr., D-Mich., has introduced a national health insurance bill every year since he took his father’s seat in the House 50 years ago. So it is no surprise the powerful committee chairman says he will try to fix the Medicare prescription drug benefit by forcing the administration to negotiate lower prices from drug companies.

Private insurers negotiate lower prices based on volume all the time, and so does the government’s own Veterans Administration. But the current drug benefit bill under Medicare was written by the drug industry to lock in higher-than-free-market prices. Or at least the prospect of them.

A business columnist in the Wall Street Journal today reports that although there are minor problems with the drug benefit, it is working better than expected — so well that its projected $43 billion cost this year will only be $30 billion. Funny what you can do with numbers. The cost is low because fewer seniors than expected signed up for the program. Why? Because it was confusing and had the potential for putting them in worse financial shape than before.

This Medicare Part D — sponsored, it seems, by Rube Goldberg –,is perhaps the biggest example of how conservatives, when they can’t convince people to vote for smaller government, take a perfectly good popular program, ruin it and then say either, “See, we told you it wouldn’t work,” or, “See, it cost even less under our leadership.”

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