LABJ FORUM - Cheap Drugs vs. Large Deficit

The debate over Medicare has taken a new turn as Congress last week sent to President Bush a reform bill covering prescription drugs. While the plan will be a boon for older Americans who have been faced with astronomical prices for their prescriptions, it is projected to cost $400 billion over the next decade adding to an already looming federal deficit. So the Business Journal asks:

Do you think the Medicare drug plan is a good idea even if it means an increase in the federal deficit?

Bill Mooney
Center for Consulting and Professional Practices

From an overall economic point of view, anything that increases federal debt is not good. However, there are so many competing factors, one has to look at the relative impact on the quality of life on people across country to determine if this should have a higher priority over other things in increasing the debt. This plan affects me a lot because I'm 77 years old. I think we have to do something about Medicare, but until the HMOs tell us how it's going to affect us, most of us are going to have to reserve our judgment on what it's going to mean to the economy.

Randy Levy
Chief Executive, President and Founder

It's good. It's time to make a difference for people in this world. Whether it's corporate or government dollars, the elderly need to be taken care of. People in general need to be taken care of, and corporations need to think more in that mode. For-profit companies are great for the economy, but need they need to give back to the community.

John Swallow
Executive Vice President, Production Technology
Universal Pictures

I do think we need something, but I'm not sure this is the thing we need. There's a desperate need for some sort of federal medical program. I'm not really well informed on it. There are things we're probably doing that we shouldn't be doing at this point, like fighting a war, which I don't support. We need to refigure how we fund things. Increasing the deficit is not a good thing, but it's a trade off.

Jon Sheinberg
The Bubble Factory

My initial instinct is to be suspicious if the Democrats are against it. I'm a Democrat, although I supported Arnold Schwarzenegger I would love to know what he thinks about it. But I don't think we know enough about it. It would be nice to get a neutral report, much like Consumer Reports, to tell us what this thing is about. But it sounds like it would be putting more fuel in the fire of special interests, like pharmaceutical companies.

Cliff Ossorio
Chief Executive
RCO and Associates

The kinds of discounts that some patients will qualify for really are remarkably close to the increased costs they pay now compared to the rest of the world. I feel that this is just to delay in bringing the cost of drugs down with the manufacturers. The United States keeps delaying taking on the manufacturers and the cost controls. This doesn't change anything it still keeps the drug costs high. I think Bush is just supporting the drug manufacturers and their high costs.

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