Too close for comfort on coming default deadline

The fact is now well-known the federal government borrows 40 cents for each dollar it spends. This is unsustainable. Reduction in fiscal spending is fine, but by no means will it solve the government’s aggregate debt problem. Both Republican and Democrat courses of action to reduce spending to lower the government’s debt will be merely offset by entitlement costs, inflation and interest payments on this debt. The answer involves higher revenue streams coming to the federal government. This means higher marginal tax rates, and tax reform, a national value-added tax on goods and services, more Americans employed and the elimination of tax credits to enterprises undeserving of such.

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Yes, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has taken various innovative actions as a means to avert a May government default such as suspending investments into two government pension programs to keep the government operating and the United States AAA credit rating in place until August. But the question is, why are these Washington politicians playing political chicken over such a paramount issue by their failure to implement NOW a logical policy to increase the aggregate federal government debt limit as a means to save this nation’s credit rating? 

The time, therefore, is at hand for Congress to do what is necessary, proper and expedient to ensure the continuation of this nation’s viable credit rating in both domestic and global markets. In that context I say to you, Washington politicians, stand up, get a backbone and do this week what is required by increasing this debt ceiling, thereby preventing the federal government from falling over the precipice into the dark abyss of fiscal insolvency. 

Terre Haute, Ind.

Ryan plan panders to insurance industry

From Susan Barmon

I would like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to step into 2011 and tell me how a person over 65 is going to get any kind of decent insurance that they can afford on a fixed income. I’d like to know what planet he is on! Certainly not in the USA. The insurance industry has made our health a consumer-driven industry. It is appalling. I couldn’t even get decent insurance when I had to pay dearly for it. Now that I’m 65, I KNOW it will be impossible with a voucher system. 

Until Paul Ryan wants to stop pandering to an industry that should not exist and give all Americans the same healthcare benefits we pay for him to have, I think he should start his budget cuts with the expiration of the budget-busting Bush tax cuts and the military industrial complex, which, at best, is corporate welfare to insure lobbyists keep their industry alive. He might also want to let Medicare bargain for lower drug costs and stop pandering to that industry.

Shame on him and the Republicans, who seem to have lost sight of the fact that they have GREATLY contributed to the mess we are in. Their policies haven’t worked, as any idiot can see after the past 10 years.

Atlanta, Ga.

Medicare drug benefit is a model for reform

From Karl Uhlendorf, deputy vice president, PhRMA

In response to “Pelosi: Drug industry profits from Medicare are ripping off taxpayers” (May 26): Allowing the government to “negotiate” prices for medicines in Medicare is a policy idea that has been around for a long time yet has failed to gain significant traction for good reasons. Notably, the Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly scored the provision as saving no money in Medicare — unless the government also restricts seniors’ access to medicines. 

In addition, in their latest report, the Medicare trustees cite significant levels of rebates for all medicines in Part D, including brands and generics. In 2010 the trustees reported rebates for 2008 were approximately 10.4 percent of total prescription drug costs. 

The assertion that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers better coverage than Part D is also inaccurate. According to the VA, approximately 1.3 million veterans are enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan. This represents about a third of Medicare-eligible veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system. In total, 44 percent of VA enrollees have supplemented their VA drug coverage with Part D or private insurance.

In fact, a recent study by The Lewin Group found that of the most often prescribed drugs for seniors, 99 percent and 94 percent were covered by the two most popular Part D plans, compared with only 65 percent covered by the VA formulary.

Part D is a successful and popular program. More than 28 million enrollees have joined Part D, increasing the share of Medicare beneficiaries who have comprehensive prescription drug coverage to about 90 percent. A recent survey showed 84 percent of Part D enrollees are satisfied with their coverage, and 95 percent say their coverage works well.

Low monthly premiums allow beneficiaries unprecedented access to their medicines. The average monthly beneficiary premium for Part D coverage will be $30 in 2011, far below the $53 forecast originally, and an increase of only $1 over the 2010 average premium of $29, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Not only is Part D working well for seniors, it’s costing far less than it was expected to — more than 40 percent less than the Medicare trustees’ initial estimates. 

The Medicare prescription drug benefit should be used as a model for reform rather than mischaracterized or, worse, weakened by unsound policy proposals.

Washington, D.C.