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January 19, 2006

Making Political Hay on Medicare Part D

Mark Schmidtt argues that the politics of the Medicare prescription drug plan make it hard for Democrats to make political hay off of it's current crisis.  

If the goal is demonizing the rightwing, he's right.  For all but the poorest seniors, the plan replaces no coverage for prescription drugs with something, albeit a complicated and frustrating plan.  So it's hard to sell it as an evil plot for most folks getting some help.

But that doesn't mean Democrats can't make political hay out of fighting to improve the plan.  Whatever the intentions of the GOP, the existence of Medicare Part D means that seniors now have an expectation that the government will help them pay for the costs of prescription drugs.  And given how screwed up the plan is, that leaves plenty of political room for Democrats to advocate for improvements in the plan at the next election.

One reason I cheered when the bill was passed was that, despite its flaws, the dynamics of middle class entitlements are that they create a political feedback mechanism of demands for improvements.  And whatever the short-term political gains for the GOP from passage of the original bill, ideologically the rightwing does not win by adding another permanent political issue of how to improve Medicare Part D to every election cycle.  

Posted by Nathan at January 19, 2006 05:45 AM