Tuesday, September 15

Medicare prescription drug benefit: most underrated program ever?

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution:
Megan and Andrew Sullivan are having a squabble about how much it cost (and here).  I would remind everyone of this recent research result:
In spite of its relatively low benefit levels, the Medicare Part D benefit generate $3.5 billion of annual static deadweight loss reduction, and at least $2.8 billion of annual value from extra innovation.  These two components alone cover 87% of the social cost of publicly financing the benefit. 
Overall, a $1 increase in prescription drug spending is associated with a $2.06 reduction in Medicare spending.
Both papers are from very reputable sources.  Left-wingers focus on the "giveaways" in this plan and conservatives focus on the cost or maybe they don't walk to talk about it at all.  It's a little late to go through all the usual pro and con arguments on the policy as a whole.  I'd just like to note that -- relative to its reputation -- the Medicare prescription drug benefit is one of the most underrated government programs of our time.  If the goal is to cut or check Medicare spending, and I think it should be, we should do it elsewhere in the program.
This set ringing some enormous bells of cognitive dissonance in my mind.

Many are the times I've railed about the prescription drug benefit (including at LG) as the bastard spawn of an unholy alliance between stalwart tax and spenders like Ted Kennedy, and the deficit-happy Rovian cynicism of Bush neocons who wished to secure the senior vote in Florida.

In this opposition I've had much company from the left, gleefully at the opportunity to scornfully chastize the Bush administration's fiscal profligacy—and from the right, who insist that Bush betrayed them with a massive expansion of the entitlement state they abhor. A lot of ink has been spilt, most recently by Andrew and Megan in the posts linked above.

Can we all have been so wrong?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive