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News of the Day ... in Perspective

11/27/2003

Medicare expansion passes after rules changed.

At 2 a.m. on Saturday, H.R. 1, the biggest expansion of the welfare state in 40 years, had gone down to defeat, 218 to 216. The vote was supposed to be open for the usual 15 minutes. Republican House leaders stretched it out to an unprecedented extra 2 hours and 38 minutes. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson trolled the House floor for votes, and President Bush made some phone calls. Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and C.L “Butch” Otter (R-ID) were induced to change their votes from nays to ayes. Then Ernest Istook (R-OK) and David Wu (D-WA) decided to join the winning side, so that the measure passed 220 to 215. (Deroy Murdock, National Review Online, Nov. 24, 2003, www.nationalreview.com/murdock/murdock200311241232.asp)

In the Senate, a vote on a budget point of order that would have stripped out the Health Savings Account provision failed by a single vote. The Medicare bill then passed 54 to 44.

The new drug plan is “voluntary,” but seniors who don’t sign up for it when they become eligible at age 65 will face penalties if they sign up later (as with Medicare Part B) (James Kuehnhenn, Detroit Free Press,Nov. 25, 2003).

Additional information:

Heath Savings Accounts could change entire landscape, some say. (Consumer Choice Matters #41, www.galen.org)

G.O.P. now party of unlimited spending; any actual Medicare reform so watered down as to be unrecognizable (Cato Institute Daily Dispatch Nov. 24, 2003, www.cato.org/dispatch/11-24-03d.html)

The real cost is not $400 billion, but an increase of between $6 trillion and $12 trillion in Medicare’s unfunded liabilities. (www.nationalreview.com/comment/bandow200311240827.asp)

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