Medicare and Those Amazing Drugs Which Prescribe Themselves

Marginal Revolution argues against Medicare for All by noting that Medicare did not cover prescription drugs until recently while private insurances have been covering them for years. In ignoring the history and structure of Medicare, the author fails to realize that prescription drugs provide an example of the failure of private insurance, not Medicare.

Medicare was established with a combination of coverage from the government along with supplemental coverage from the private sector. While many did not have supplemental coverage, many Medicare beneficiaries obtained their prescription coverage through private supplemental insurance (which might also pay the Medicare deductible and copays, depending upon the plan). Some received prescription coverage and some didn’t–just like in the private sector where many lack prescription coverage. Congress, not the Medicare program, decides what is covered and the Republicans have protected the pharmaceutical industry by keeping Medicare out until recently. Ezra Klein writes more on the failure of private insurance to cover prescription drugs at Tapped.

In recent years prescription drug prices have climbed to a point where many people, both with Medicare and those with private insurance, could no longer afford coverage. Republicans gave in to popular demand, but still managed to devise a program which is as much a corporate welfare scheme for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries as it is drug coverage. In most areas Medicare provides health care in a more cost effective manner than the insurance industry. Unfortunately the pharmaceutical industry continues to prevent Medicare from negotiating lower prices. While demonstrating the failure of private insurance, this does provide a warning that government plans also run the risk of failing to preform to their potential when conservative politicians impose such restrictions.

I find it amusing that the author finds pharmaceuticals to be of great value as compared to doctor visits. How does he think that pharmaceutical are prescribed? It takes physician exams to diagnose the problem, to determine which drugs would provide the best treatment, and to monitor the effects of the medications. Sure you could point to statistics which seem to show that drugs are of value and physician visits are not. That’s when you need to use a little common sense to see the absurdity of separating the two in this manner, and time to remember that statistics is the science which “proves” that the average human has one breast and one testicle.

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