ABC Highlights Medicare Complaints, Overlooks Retailers' Drug Discounts
The same day the federal government opened re-enrollment for a costly drug benefit, Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT) expanded its $4-generic drug plan and another competitor announced it would offer generic drugs for the same price. Yet while ABC‚Äôs ‚ÄúWorld News‚ÄĚ complained about the cost and inconvenience of Medicare premiums, it left the role discount retailers like Wal-Mart and BJ‚Äôs Wholesale Club (NYSE: BJ) have in making medicine more affordable.
On the November 15 program, anchor Charles Gibson complained that ‚Äú43 million senior citizens, eligible for the Part D prescription drug benefit, have to enroll for 2007, and there is no prospect that it‚Äôs going to be any easier.‚ÄĚ
Correspondent Lisa Stark took up the story with complaints by senior citizens about rising premiums and how confusing it is to navigate all the fine print when comparing drug plans. For good measure Stark tossed in Ron Pollack, a liberal health care activist and a supporter of Bill Clinton‚Äôs 1994 plan to universalize health care.
Stark left out Pollack‚Äôs political bent, however, and characterized him merely as one of many experts ‚Äúwho study next year‚Äôs options‚ÄĚ to ‚Äúwarn that people need to look closely at the fine print.‚ÄĚ
Yet Stark herself didn‚Äôt pore over the fine print ‚Äď in the federal budget. Nowhere in her story did she mention the hundreds of billions of dollars Medicare Part D is projected to cost taxpayers. Conservative detractors such as The Heritage Foundation consider it a ‚Äúmassive new experiment in central planning‚ÄĚ and have estimated it will set back taxpayers nearly $700 billion over 10 years.
Stark did, however, attack the plan from the left by featuring an advocate of universal health care.
‚ÄúThe premium is likely to be different, what drugs are covered are different, other out-of-pocket costs will be different, what drug stores you can go may be different,‚ÄĚ said Pollack, of FamiliesUSA, a liberal health care advocacy group. Pollack is a longtime advocate of more government control of health care.
Yet the same day Stark featured complaints from seniors about the cost of drugs under a heavily subsidized government health care plan, two private companies made news with plans to lower drug prices at no cost to taxpayers.
The Associated Press reported on November 16 that Wal-Mart ‚Äúannounced Thursday a rollout of its $4 offer on some generic prescription drugs to 11 more states,‚ÄĚ meaning customers can now get the cheap drugs at ‚Äú3,009 stores in 38 states.‚ÄĚ What‚Äôs more, Wal-Mart‚Äôs announcement was matched by a competitor, BJ‚Äôs Wholesale Club, Inc.