Deflate Medicare's Prescription Drug Program, Critics Say

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - The soaring cost of President Bush's Medicare prescription drug program has politicians from both parties fuming.

As the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, the White House now says cost of the new entitlement program is expected to exceed $720 billion over the next 10 years, rising to more than $100 billion a year in 2014.

"Medicare must have taken an overdose of Viagra, because the cost of the program has now been enlarged by 80 percent since it was first passed by Congress," said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. Just last week, CAGW criticized Medicare for announcing it would cover impotence drugs when "medically necessary."

The cost of the new Medicare prescription drug program worried many lawmakers from the start.

Some Republicans now say they voted for the program, only because the original cost estimate did not exceed $400 billion.

But four months after Congress passed the law creating the new drug entitlement, the White House increased the estimated cost of the program from $400 billion to $534 billion, prompting both Democrats and Republicans to complain they'd been misled.

The $720 billion figure mentioned on Wednesday sent shock waves across Capitol Hill and led the network newscasts Wednesday evening.

"The overarching lesson of the past 70 years is that the costs of entitlement programs explode out of control in the long run," Schatz said in a statement. (For example, when Medicare was first passed in 1965, it was predicted to cost $26 billion in 2003; the actual cost was $245 billion, CAGW noted.)

"Instead of fixing a Medicare program already headed toward insolvency, Congress added a massive universal benefit that was not necessary, since 76 percent of seniors already had some form of drug coverage," Schatz added.

Given the fact that the United States already is saddled with a $427 budget deficit, "this latest revelation of waste in Washington should be enough to arouse taxpayers to demand that the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit be deflated," Schatz said.

"Without reform, the Medicare program will needlessly place an enormous burden on our children and grandchildren," he concluded.

The White House says the cost of the Medicare prescription drug program will rise as more baby boomers enroll in it. And it says the $720-billion estimate is the result of extending the ten-year cost projection from 2013 to 2015. The two-year difference in the time frame includes many more retired baby boomers.

Citizens Against Government Waste says it is dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

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