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Clinton's Medicare Plan: Not Worth It

by Ed Pintzuk

The Clinton proposals to "reform" Medicare are a modern version of that ancient strategy: "give a little and take a lot."

The most important part of the reform is to provide some financial support for the cost of prescriptions. While any step in that direction is welcome, we should all be aware how feeble that step is. First, the program, meager as it is, will not start until 2002. Second, Medicare will cover only half of the prescription cost, and that will be capped at $1000 per year, initially. Third, in addition to the 50 percent that the patient must pay, there will be a $24 monthly charge to help pay the program's costs.

Of course, this is better than nothing. but there is another aspect of the "reform" that will certainly increase the out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare patients. That is the 20 percent co-pay for laboratory tests. For older people this can add up to a considerable sum since expensive tests are frequently ordered for the elderly.

At the same time, the Clinton proposal continues his emphasis on managed care as a means to control Medicare costs. Managed care has already proven unhealthy for those in private insurance plans. It won't work as a replacement for traditional Medicare.

All of this again points to the rationality of universal health care with a single payer system. There is ample proof that such a system will meet the health care needs of all Americans - including those 45,000,000 citizens who have no health insurance at all.