Thursday, September 21, 2000

Competing drug benefits draw skeptical responses

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        While many see prescription drug benefits for seniors as an important issue, Enquirer readers who responded to an online survey about Medicare reform remained skeptical about big government attempts to fix the problem.

        The Enquirer received 21 e-mail responses after a story published Monday about Medicare and prescription drugs; the first in a series of articles focusing on presidential campaign issues. Some responses came from as far as Madison, Wis.; Phoenix; and Fort Myers, Fla.

        The number of responses was too low to accurately reflect community sentiment, especially since many seniors affected by the issue do not have access to the Internet. Readers who did respond mostly said they were “very familiar” with Medicare issues. And they favored Republican candidate George Bush by a 3-to-1 margin.

        “Bush's plan has a better chance of passing Congress because it is less expensive,” wrote Symmes Township resident Joann Holtkamp. “Gore's plan is an expensive entitlement that we simply cannot afford. Many seniors can afford the insurance and/or their own meds (medicine) without needing government assistance.”

        Marsha Aspenns, of Monfort Heights, agrees: “George W. Bush is not making promises he cannot keep,” she said, “unlike Vice President Gore with his continued promises to pay for everything all the time.”

        Rosa Serra, of Clifton Heights, favors Mr. Gore.

        “The problem with Gov. Bush's plan is that it is not clear how much the drug companies would charge for the prescription plan,” Ms. Serra wrote. “Also, I don't think the insurance companies can handle this. Many seniors are dropped outright and the cost is getting so high that a lot of small businesses have dropped health insurance benefits. Too bad the Republicans blocked health care reform eight years ago when it had a chance of working.”

        Concerns about Medicare HMOs, which will drop nearly 27,000 Tristate seniors later this year, reached as far as Wisconsin.

        “I think both of them are missing the big picture — the Medicare HMOs already cover prescription drugs,” wrote Madison resident Rebecca Mataya. “They're leaving the area because the government cut the reimbursement to the insurance companies with the Balanced Budget Act. Since the HMOs are already set up to handle the seniors and their needs, let them! Can you imagine the time it will take for the government to set up the plan?”

        South Lebanon resident Paul Short said he doesn't buy either candidate's promises.

        “It's all campaign rhetoric and more bull. When are people going to realize that after they get your vote, you are no longer accessible to any politician?”


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