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Losing Our Independence?

Medicare Rx Reform and Health Care Choices

For Immediate Release: June 25, 2003

(Washington, D.C.)—With just days left before Congress decides whether or not to pass the largest expansion of government health care since 1965, "It's critical for citizens to voice their own opinions about Medicare reform," says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom.

"It's also important to remember that when Medicare was originally created in 1965, Congress promised that the program would not interfere with citizens' freedom to maintain private health insurance.1 Yet, today seniors are effectively forced to drop their private coverage and instead join Medicare Part A. Upon being coerced into Medicare, citizens then are subjected to more than 100,000 pages of Medicare rules and regulations," Blevins stresses.

American Public Concerned about Becoming Dependent on Government Funding

A recent poll conducted by Zogby International found that 68 percent of seniors currently have prescription drug coverage. Of those, 74 percent do not think that the plan being offered by Congress is better than their current coverage.

What's more, 66 percent of respondents (of all ages) said they are worried that a government-provided prescription drug benefit might mean that some people could lose their private health care coverage and become dependent on government funding. "That's exactly what happened to seniors when Medicare was passed over 30 years ago," Blevins notes. "They lost their independence regarding health insurance options. And consequently health care costs have skyrocketed for all."

Blevins continues, "As cited with empirical evidence in Medicare's Midlife Crisis (published by the Cato Institute, 2001), in 1965 government experts projected that Medicare Part A would cost only $9 billion in 1990. But the program ended up costing more than $66 billion that year."

Moreover, yesterday's Wall Street Journal article by economists Andrew Rettenmaier and Thomas Saving provides a warning worth heeding and a question all Americans should ask: "A prescription drug bill that adds 12% to Medicare's costs comes with a $7.5 trillion price tag. Who will pay?"

"Let's hope Congress doesn't try to pass this enormous burden onto high-income workers who already pay a disproportionate share of Medicare costs, but later receive the same benefits as everyone else," says Blevins. "Such a policy would be nothing more than a huge tax increase!"

1 The original 1965 Medicare law (which amended the Social Security Act by creating Title XVIII—Health Insurance for the Aged) includes the following section: Sec. 1803. OPTION TO INDIVIDUALS TO OBTAIN OTHER HEALTH INSURANCE PROTECTION: Nothing contained in this title shall be construed to preclude any State from providing, or any individual from purchasing or otherwise securing, protection against the cost of any health services.