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More "Stab in the Back" Tactics from Republicans: Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Cards

Matt Yglesias has written about the Republican claims that their policies are failing because of a liberal "knife in the back." It is obviously a more serious charge in the Iraq debate, where war, death, and terror are all on the plate. But the GOP is pursuing the tactic more explicitly, and just as perniciously, in the Drug Discount Card program.

The Discount Card program was incredibly poorly designed, certainly at least in part because it was a wholesale product of industry lobbyists and Bush sycophants. It was esay to foresee the problems that the program would encounter, and David Sirota of the Center for American Progress has been on the case for half a year now [See here, here, and here, for instance].

The administration tried to paper over the programs obvious difficulties through a massive propaganda campaign financed by taxpayers, for the benefit of Bush's reelection prospects.

It is now clear that the propaganda campaign failed: Seniors have not been able to benefit from the program. Other than automatic enrollees, as few as 600,000 seniors have navigated the maze of forms and paperwork necessary to apply for the questionably beneficial card [See also CNN 6/1/04]. Seniors meet obstacle after obstacle in the application process; most significantly, the benefits and discounts each card offers can change at any point, and have changed many times just in the initial months of the program.

Rather than attempting to fix the problems inherent in the policy design, GOP Senators spent all day today in a hearing blaming Democrats for undermining the program with a disinformation campaign.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a key congressional architect of the Medicare drug benefit, accused critics of the discount card program of engaging in a "deliberate campaign to discredit it and confuse seniors about how it works."

"This effort is driven and coordinated by those who opposed the Medicare Modernization Act, not because of policy but because of politics," Grassley said in his opening statement for Tuesday's hearing. [CBS Marketwatch, 6/8/04]
Republicans on Capitol Hill are accusing Democrats of deliberately trying to undermine the Medicare prescription drug discount program, saying they are playing on seniors' confusion for political gain.

In a finance committee hearing today, several GOP senators criticized Democrats Tuesday for their continued attacks on a program they say is designed to deliver much-needed prescription drug discounts to Medicare beneficiaries. Democrats counter that the program has delivered lower discounts than expected, is too complicated to help many seniors, and does little to force drug companies to lower their prices. [Web MD Medical News 6/8/04]
As the AP story linked above notes, "the most widely seen critical advertisements was aired by AARP, the largest advocacy organization for older Americans, which backed the Medicare legislation last fall. AARP's ad highlights the law's complexity and suggests that AARP can make it understandable." Kent Conrad, hardly a partisan warrior, has introduced simple legislation that would address many of the problems. If the GOP was really concerned about helping seniors, they would fix the problems.


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