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November 17, 2003

Pass the Medicare Bill

I think the AARP made a strategic mistake in settling for this Medicare bill, but they no doubt decided that holding out for somethig more might lead to nothing at all.

Which was the experience of health care activists back in 1994.

The Bill: There are some severe problems with the Medicare bill, but the bottom line is that it injects an additional $400 billion into the Medicare system. Yes, there are dangerous privatization pilot projects in the bill, but AARP in their statement on the bill note the serious Medicare competition is delayed until 2010 and is limited to a few areas.

That's a political danger, but it means we need to politically mobilize to have the power to fix the problems by then. It's not like conservatives are that happy with the bill; many are already expressing dissent on it. Bush and the GOP are gritting their teeth and supporting the bill for political expediency reasons, but their ideal would be no bill at all, not a $400 billion expansion of health care, and likely escalating demands to make the benefit more generous in coming years.

The Politics: Making the perfect the enemy of the good is a loser for Democrats on health care issues. A failed bill on prescription drugs isn't a gain for Democrats-- in fact, passage of this half-assed bill will actually highlight how inadequate GOP proposals are and how much the massive deficit prevented a real benefit for seniors.

Democrats should keep criticizing the problems with the bill, but in the end, they should vote for it as an inadequate, but needed benefit for our seniors. Lining up on the opposite side from the AARP would be an idiotic position for progressives.

Instead, they should work with AARP and propose a new bill next year to cancel Bush's tax cuts, expand coverage and end the privatization experiments. I'm glad everyone from the AFL-CIO on is criticizing the bad possibilities fo the bill.

But my political instincts say pass this sucker, expose its inadequacies, and fight to improve it.

Posted by Nathan at November 17, 2003 09:40 PM