Don't Swallow The Doughnut Hole
September 15, 2006
Jeff Cruz is a senior policy analyst for Medicare and Social Security at Campaign for America’s Future.
If there ever was a symbol of the GOP culture of corruption, of their K-Street-Project way of doing business, of favoring special interests over the American people and of their blind adherence to a failed ideology that unconditionally favors shrinking government over public service, then that symbol might just be a doughnut hole .
While the examples of the GOP culture of corruption are numerous—energy bill handouts to oil companies enjoying record profits while consumers are gouged at the pump or increasing the cost of college student loans for the profit of Sallie Mae—the creation of an unnecessary gap in coverage of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit offers a crystal clear indictment of the failure of conservatism and its resultant culture of corruption. Seniors on Part D are only covered for their first $2,000 or so in drug costs. After that, drug coverage in Part D stops completely and they are forced to pay monthly premiums while getting no coverage at all, until spending nearly $3,000—completely out of pocket—when coverage resumes.
The gap, which has become known as “the doughnut hole,” demonstrates how a party that doesn’t believe in government cannot govern effectively.
The inefficient design of Part D resulted from the GOP modus operandi. The only reason the doughnut hole exists is because Part D was designed more for insurance and pharmaceutical companies than for enrollees. If the government was allowed to negotiate with big pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices, there would be more than enough savings to eliminate the doughnut hole.
Every industrialized nation in the world, as well as the U.S. Veterans Administration and Department of Defense, negotiates prices far cheaper than what we are paying for prescription drugs under Part D. Traditional Medicare similarly negotiates with doctors and hospitals to save money for beneficiaries and taxpayers alike. Yet, because of GOP corruption, we pay more for prescription drugs than need be. Seniors lack guaranteed coverage—they must sort through a plethora of competing private plans with different pricing and are faced with a gap in coverage.
Paying prices set by the drug companies results in 61 percent of the federal Medicare drug expenditures remaining with drug makers as added profits. And seniors are left in the hole, which forces many to choose between buying their needed prescription drugs and having food on the table. Remember, the average annual income for American seniors is only around $17,000. One study has found that, when faced with such a gap in coverage, seniors cut back on the prescription drugs, their health deteriorates and they end up costing more money in increased hospital visits. Tragically, fatality rates increased 22 percent for seniors with a gap in prescription drug coverage.
Well, it is time to fight back—and have a little fun doing it! A coalition of progressive groups has been fighting to fix Part D. With Doughnut Hole Day approaching, we have set an ambitious goal of symbolically eliminating 69,000 doughnut hole pastries during the week of Sept. 18 to kick off our campaign to eliminate the Medicare doughnut hole. Each pastry will represent a hundred seniors that will fall into the prescription-gap doughnut hole.
Many of these doughnut holes will be eliminated—eaten, crushed, cut, or smashed—at large rallies being planned throughout the country. Many others will be distributed to senior homes or to friends by activists fighting to keep government accountable. Campaign for America's Future is having a YouTube video competition, where prizes can be won for the most creative and popular videos of doughnut holes being destroyed.
While a chocolate doughnut hole has long been a beloved breakfast treat for me, it tastes even better as a symbol of eliminating one of the worst examples of GOP corruption. For the health of millions of seniors, we need to eliminate the doughnut hole. First, we will start the campaign by symbolically eliminating 69,000 doughnut holes in September, and then set our sights on fixing the real doughnut hole in the next Congress. Will you do your part?
For more information on the campaign to get rid of the doughnut hole, please visit www.nodoughnuthole.com