The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, November 25, 2003, Image 9

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The Battalion
Page 9 • Tuesday, November 25, 20(
A drug plan for none
Prescription plan falls short in giving
senior citizens the help they deserve
F or nearly a decade, senior citizens have
waited to get a prescription drug benefit
under Medicare. Politicians have made
promise after promise telling them that help is
coming. The House of Representatives
approved a $400 billion bill on Saturday to
restructure Medicare and add a prescription
drug benefit, and on Monday, the bill’s road to
passage in the senate was cleared. Although
this seems to be a step in the right direction,
the legislation does little to alleviate the bur-
ation ^
’5 1
den placed on older Americans throughout the United States
involving their prescription medications.
This bill is incapable of giving senior citizens the innate right
to prescription drugs they deserve.
Many senior citizens throughout America live on a fixed
income. Some rely on government programs such as Social
Security for their livelihood. While Franklin Roosevelt’s New
Deal meant to ensure financial stability for the most vulnerable
in society, it never foresaw ridiculous drug prices or other price
gouging taking place in the United States. Thus, more of the
income senior citizens live on is being spent on prescription
drugs since costs are skyrocketing out of control.
For most older Americans, prescription drug use is not a
choice of luxury: It is an issue of life and death. Scientific and
medical technology has created an opportunity to prolong the
lives of millions of people in the United States and throughout
the world. Medication that lowers high blood pressure to med
ication that relieves arthritis pain should be available to every
person who needs it. However, as drug prices continue to
increase, senior citizens often have to make difficult choices.
The choice can come down to taking needed medication and
eating a meal or paying an electricity bill. The situation has
become so bad for senior citizens throughout America that
some split their pills in half to cut down on prescription drug
costs and make their medication last longer. This must stop.
Senior citizens have made America what it is today. They are
the ones who fought bravely on the beaches of Normandy dur
ing World War II. The “Greatest Generation” are the folks who
built the infrastructure, the economy and the basic values that
define America. To tell these men and women that they are not
entitled to the medication they need for medical reasons is noth
ing more than a slap in the face. It is a slap in the face to the
veterans who proudly served America in uniform. It is a slap in
the face to the workers who literally built the United States into
an economic superpower. It is a slap in the face to the teachers
who educated generations of young Americans to provide great
opportunity for all citizens. No older American should be
denied the prescription drugs he needs to stay healthy and alive.
Unfortunately, many older Americans can’t afford prescrip
tion drugs on their own. The pharmaceutical drug companies
are making large profits off outrageous drug prices in the
American free market. Many senior citizens go to Canada or
Mexico where they can purchase the same medication for a
fraction of the cost they would pay in the United States. Since the pharmaceutical industry
refuses to lower its prices, and in fact has fought every attempt to lower drug costs or allow generic
drugs into the marketplace, the government must be proactive in providing relief to senior citizens.
This is where things become tricky. While the House of Representatives passed a so-called pre
scription drug benefit under Medicare this past weekend, the bill is nothing more than a giveaway to
the big pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and HMOs.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., points out that the legislation will dismantle
Medicare as it is known today by allowing private insurance companies to compete with the govern
ment-funded Medicare program in covering senior citizens’ health care and drug costs. In some ways,
the new bill is perhaps the biggest gift to the pharmaceutical industry the Republicans could possibly
give. Corporate CEOs and others can now celebrate in their high-rise offices at the success of their
lobbying efforts in Congress at passing a sham bill. Yet while they celebrate, senior citizens are being
denied a real, honest prescription drug benefit under Medicare.
Some might argue that a prescription drug benefit is too expensive or that it isn’t the government’s
role to provide drug relief to its citizens.
However, the federal government’s ability to lower drug prices shouldn’t be looked at as an antag
onistic welfare program, but rather as a helpful government safety net for those who can’t afford
needed medications. Surely providing prescription drug relief to the Greatest Generation is the least
we can do for those who have given the United States so much.
H .
• f 1
Jonathan Steed is a senior
political science major.
Proposed bill steals from those who
worked for what they have earned
onday’s near passage of a bill to add'
prescription drug coverage to
Medicare raised an interesting ques
tion: At what age is it ethically right to steal
from someone else? The $400 billion
Medicare bill will be one of the greatest thefts
perpetrated in American history, guaranteeing
that today’s college student will spend an even
greater percentage of his adult life working to
pay government taxes. Republicans and
Democrats alike deserve the blame, but so do
the apathetic non-voters of generation X that allow the politi
cians in Washington to sneak out of the back window with their
freedom and economic prosperity.
A basic tenet of economics is that “there is no free lunch.”
This is just as true with prescription drug costs, where if the
users of the drugs are not footing the bill, someone else is. This
cost will be paid by working Americans, the majority of whom
are too young to be eligible for Medicare. Even senior citizens
will not be immune to the higher cost of living that will accom
pany such a government subsidy. With Medicare already hang
ing precariously above bankruptcy, expanding the troubled pro
gram is asking for failure.
Explosive costs are nothing new to government-provided
healthcare. The original Medicare program signed into law in
1965, estimated that it would only cost $9 billion to operate in
1990. In actuality. Medicare cost $65 billion in 1990. According
to the office of Texas doctor and Rep. Ron Paul, the cost on the
proposed program is likely to approach $4 trillion over the next
10 years. With the ever-growing number of individuals eligible
for Medicare due to the baby boomer generation aging, the pro
gram will only get more expensive.
Supporters of the prescription drug coverage bill claim that
the current situation of Medicare is a crisis that, if not
resolved, will hurt older Americans. It should come as some
surprise then, according to The Washington Post, that a 2002
government survey of Medicare users found only 4.2 percent
thought that getting their needed prescription drugs was a “big
problem.” Meanwhile, the program will force senior citizens
already providing for their health care in another way into the
government program. According to The Washington Post arti
cle, in 1999 nearly 30 percent of retirees had coverage from a
previous employer. Another 20 percent had coverage through
Veteran’s Affairs or Medicare. Twenty-five percent more had
insurance and, for the very poor, pharmaceutical companies
provide free or heavily discounted drugs. With the prescription
drug program in place, there will be little reason for employers
to continue to provide the benefits to their former employees or
for individuals to pay for insurance.
The most confusing part about the issue of prescription drug
coverage is understanding the motivations of the parties
involved. Republicans, the party once opposed to socialized
medicine such as “Hillary Care,” have switched sides to pick up
votes as the presidential campaign season heats up. The
American Association of Retired Persons, the largest lobby in
Washington, D.C., favors the bill. Also, older Americans are the most active voting demographic in
the country. Republicans, including President George W. Bush, have seized this as an opportunity
to advance their party while abandoning the principle of limited government. This has left conser
vatives angered. Congressman Mike Pence summed up the feeling on the House floor last week. “I
did not come to Washington to create entitlements,” he said.
Democrats, traditionally the party of big government and welfare programs, are tom on how to
respond to the Republican effort. Liberals in the party tend to favor the bill as it indeed takes the coun
try down the path of socialized medicine. On the other hand, Democrat party leaders have attempted to
block the bill, fearing it would give Republicans an advantage with voting older Americans.
Republican and Democratic party leaders have attempted to justify their unusual positions by
claiming that the bill privatizes Medicare. A small provision within the bill does make an attempt at
allowing for private competition in the future, but that is negligible compared to the real reason
behind either groups’ stance.
Older Americans must realize that this program will only help a handful of their peers at every
one else’s expense. Young people, especially those earning a higher education for a better job,
should realize that they will be the ones paying for this legislation for the entirety of their careers.
Until this generation makes itself a voting constituency to be reckoned with, the portion of older
Americans that feels that it is entitled to others’ income will not have to steal it. Politicians will do
that for them.
mi* 1
$ *
Elephant Walk
Sporting unclear
/n response to Jenna Jones’ Nov.
24 article:
The class of 1926 took a walk
around the campus as freshman in
' | 922 to muster spirit for a struggling
football team. In the fall of 1925, the
senior class of 1926 took a walk
ar ound campus to remember the
times they spent at A&M.
Every year since Elephant Walk
has been held before the University
°f Texas game, regardless of where
the game is held.
The senior class did not vote to
c hange the time that the senior
alass gift was announced; that was
decided by the Class of 2004
Council. The vote last fall deter-
fofoed what the gift would be.
raditionally, students voted on the
S'fr in the spring of their senior year
jfod it was announced at Ring
ance. We have now changed the
Practice so that students vote in
spring 0 f our junior year and will
Enounce it at Elephant Walk so the
senior class can begin the prepara
tions while still students.
Seniors should be at Kyle Field at
12:45 p.m. for their picture and
speaker; their walk begins at 2:04.
Juniors should be at Law/Puryear
Field at 2:05 p.m., and their picture
and speaker begins at 2:45 p.m. at
Kyle Field.
Hayley Henderson
Jr. E-Walk Director
Class of 2005
Race and color are
not synonymous
Whenever the issue of diversity is
discussed someone will inevitably
make a comment like, “diversity is
more than race.” As true as that is,
please realize that race itself is
more than skin color. A person’s
race reflects his heritage and histo
ry and also has a lot to do with his
culture values, beliefs, etc. Anyone
who does not believe this should
take a course in world history next
semester or go to the library and
read a couple of books. If you refuse
to do this, then I ask that you leave
this University; ignorance and
refusal to learn is not what being an
Aggie is.
Cody Sain
Class 2006
Diversity does not
exist at Texas A&M
The question many of us should be
asking is what are the reasons for
the lack in visibility of the diverse
groups on campus? Once students
with different opinions, backgrounds
and cultures feel as though they can
truly coexist and be vocal on this
campus, diversity will be a reality.
Diversity is not simply a spreadsheet
representing the racial and ethnic
makeup of the campus. An area is
not diverse based solely on its
diverse makeup, but by the contribu
tions that its diverse members make
to the community as a whole.
The reason many of us have
become so jaded by the word diver
sity is because of the way in which
we have transformed a state of
being into a holiday. Diversity is
more than the various table dis
plays at MSG Open House or those
seemingly random cultural events
that are celebrated at Rudder
Fountain. These once-a-semester
events make it appear as though a
person is only Jewish for the week
of Hanukkah, black in the month of
February, gay for Pride Week and a
Republican only on Election Day.
The Aggie community must
become active participants on cam
pus and speak about issues of
diversity on a daily basis. When
prospective students see that this
Matt Maddox is a senior
management major.
campus is a haven for discussion
among all Aggies, students of all
backgrounds will feel welcome to
attend Texas A&M.
Chris Carter
Class of 2001
The Battalion encourages letters to the editor.
Letters must be 200 words or less and include
the author’s name, class and phone number. The
opinion editor reserves the right to edit letters for
length, style and accuracy. Letters may be submitted
in person at 014 Reed McDonald with a valid stu
dent ID. Letters also may be mailed to: 014 Reed
McDonald, MS 1111, Texas A&M University,
College Station, TX 77843-1111. Fax: (979) 845-
2647 Email: