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News of the Day ... In Perspective

10/17/2005

Could the Medicare drug benefit shorten lives?

Many proposals now before Congress would implement a formulary for the Medicare drug benefit similar to the Veterans Administration National Formulary, which began in 1997.

Only 38% of the drugs approved by the FDA in the 1990s are on the VA Formulary, and only 19% of the drugs approved since 2000.

Using demographic data published by the VA, Frank Lichtenberg of Columbia University and the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that the VA Formulary has resulted in a decrease of 2.04 months in the average life expectancy of veterans since 1997.

Veterans’ life expectancy increased substantially during 1997 to 1997, but has not increased and has possibly even declined since 1997. U.S. life expectancy as a whole continued to increase after 1997, albeit at a slower rate.

Lichtenberg cautions that a Medicare formulary “could reduce well-being, life span, and survival rates among the Medicare population, raising serious questions about the wisdom of these proposals” ( www/manhattan-institute.org/html/mpr_02.htm).

Additional information:

“Delay the Medicare Drug Benefit” and “How Unfunded Liabilities Affect the Economy,” AAPS News, November 2005, legislative supplement.

“Paying for Medicare: an Economic Look at the Program’s Unfunded Liabilities,” by Tracy L. Foertsch and Joseph R. Antos, Heritage Foundation, Oct 11, 2005: www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/wm880.cfm

Rep. Garrett: Medicare bill is bad medicine for seniors, Dec 1, 2003.

“Don’t sell out patients for a few dollars more” (AAPS urges defeat of 1,071-page Medicare bill, the greatest expansion of Medicare since 1965), November 2003

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