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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Missing Your Medicare Drug Benefits? Thank John Kline

On January 1, the prescription drug benefit of the Republicans' much-vaunted Medicare bill kicked in. In just 16 days, at least 19 states have had to step in to pay the drug costs of their poor and elderly due to massive confusion and impenetrable bureaucracy from the federal government.

Here's a vivid description from the Los Angeles Times:

California officials ordered emergency action Thursday to cover drug costs for 1 million elderly citizens, many of whom have been denied life-saving medications or charged exorbitant amounts because of glitches in the new federal prescription drug program.

The action by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration capped a day in which the Medicare prescription drug program — one of President Bush's signature domestic policy initiatives — came under sharp criticism from members of Congress and governors of both major political parties.

Critics said the program, which Bush has touted as the most significant advance in Medicare in 40 years, was fast becoming a public health emergency. California officials said that as many as one-fifth of the 1 million elderly, poor or disabled state residents who were switched into the federal program on Jan. 1 could be wrongly denied their medications because of flaws in the program.

Minnesota is among the 19 (and counting) states which have had to step in to take up the slack. Here's what our Republican governor had to say in the January 15th edition of the Strib:

So far, hundreds of low-income Minnesotans have been affected by a computer glitch that mistakenly cut them off from access to subsidized drugs.

"The implementation of the new program by the federal government has been awful," Pawlenty said before signing the executive order. He said the state was stepping in as a stopgap measure to help patients who are especially vulnerable.

How is it possible that a plan that president Bush announced with such fanfare more than two years ago could turn out to have such disastrous results?

How is it possible? Because actually helping people get affordable prescription drugs (or improving Medicare more generally) was never the point of the bill:

It was clear back in 2003, when the Bush administration rammed this bill through the Republican Congress, that the purpose was not to devise an affordable prescription drug program for seniors. Rather the administration wanted to help two friendly industries, the pharmaceutical companies and the HMOÂ’s; and to get bragging rights for the 2004 election that Bush had helped seniors. Few voters would grasp just how bad the law was, since its effective date was deliberately put off until 2006.

So, in what way in John Kline responsible for this? Apart from the fact that he voted for it, there's also the fact that he stood silently by while the Republican leadership rammed the final bill through the House in just over 26 hours, holding the voting open for a record 2 hours, 51 minutes while they twisted arms and attempted bribes to bring reluctant Republicans into line. When the congressional leadership has to bribe its members to vote for a bill, you know its good legislation.

And who is more corrupt, the Republican leadership doing the bribing and armtwisting, or the members of the Republican caucus who sit passively and watch it happen?

What about John Kline, who wrote a letter to the Republican leadership just days before the vote, asking that the leadership follow House rules and wait a full 72 hours from the time the bill was released from committee before holding a vote, but didn't speak up to defend his request when it mattered most? Kline wrote:

The general public will evaluate not only what Congress does regarding Medicare and prescription drugs, but the way in which it does it. A bill proposing such substantive changes to the Medicare system and costing an estimated $400 billion over the next decade deserves the careful and thoughtful consideration of all Members.

Indeed Mr. Kline, the public will evaluate what you did, and what you failed to do, back in November 2003. You're getting your report card now, and it doesn't look good.


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