Boehner changes tune on drug benefit

After calling the implementation of the Medicare prescription-drug program “horrendous” last month, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been warming to the Bush administration’s handling of the new benefit.

Over the past week, Boehner has issued three press releases condemning Democratic criticisms of the program and touting its success.

“Despite attempts by congressional Democrats to talk down the program, more and more Americans are signing up and paying far, far less for their medications than they were before,” Boehner said Friday.

As recently as last month, he wasn’t as positive.

“The implementation of the Medicare plan has been horrendous. We’ve made it far more complicated than it should be,” Boehner said on “Fox News Sunday” in early February.

Since settling in as majority leader, Boehner has softened his stance on the drug program’s implementation and begun to toe the party line.

“Recent polling reveals just how out of touch Democrats are with their relentless demagoguery.” Boehner said in a press release Monday, referring to a Dutko Worldwide poll that found that most senior citizens who have signed up are satisfied with their drug coverage.

Boehner’s February statement on Fox came as no surprise to Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Crider said that condemning the implementation is different from condemning the program but that Boehner was “absolutely correct.”

“The implementation of the prescription-drug benefit has been horrendous, and that’s why there should be a six-month enrollment extension,” Crider said. The enrollment deadline is May 15.

“Boehner saw a lot of problems that many people have seen in the implementation of the benefit,” said Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services “has made significant progress over the last couple of months, and there is growing evidence that as more seniors enroll the more they save on their prescription-drug costs.”