A (Small) Health Care Surprise

Was Bush right on prescription drugs?

By Robert A. George
|  Friday, May 15, 2009  |  Updated 11:31 AM CDT
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A (Small) Health Care Surprise

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Will Bush be vindicated on his drug-benefit commitment?

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A lot of Republicans remain resentful of George W. Bush's perceived betrayal of GOP values. Asked to assess the "best and worst" of Bush, veteran strategist Craig Shirley didn't hold back: 
Bush said “yes” far too often at the urging of aides bent on short term political gain rather than the long term interests of the country and conservatism...
Bush said “yes” to a prescription drug plan, the largest expansion of the Welfare State since the Great Society, but only done so to attract senior votes in time for the 2004 election...
That 2003 Medicare reform has stuck in the craw of Republicans almost from the moment it was passed (in a notorious arm-twisting vote that was held open on the House floor for more than three hours).
 
However, a funny little thing happened over the last few years: The rise in prescription drug costs in 2007 was the lowest in 44 years -- causing a reduction in overall growth between 2006 and 2007. Obviously, that hardly means health spending is decreasing, but the prescription drug component is rather remarkable. 
 
The prescription drug law isn't the sole reason for this occurrence -- a greater availability of generic drugs and the move of private sector titans like Wal-Mart and Walgreens to offer cut-rate prices on drugs have also played a significant role.
 
But the Medicare reform can't be ignored. Contrary to GOP fears, the "expansion" of the Welfare State -- via prescription drugs -- has largely not occurred.  Of course, Democrats run the entire federal apparatus - and Obama is promising/threatening to make a health-care overhaul part of his initial trillion-dollar stimulus package. Thus, regulation and private-sector incentives Republicans included when the bill was first introduced may well fall bythe wayside -- thus increasing costs. 
 
So, Republicans, at least, might want to credit Bush for a federal benefit plan that has, surprisingly, not rocketed out of control (Democrats aren't quite likely to see this as a virtue). Alas, there are other parts of the health care system for which that can't be said.  
 
But that's a discussion for another day.  
 
For now, let's count our blessings.

Robert A. George is a New York Post editorial writer. A one-time aide to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, he blogs at Ragged Thots and dabbles in stand-up comedy.   

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