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What Tax Cut?
April 21, 2004
By Evelyn Pringle

Any long-term financial benefit anticipated from the Bush tax cuts has likely gone right out the window to the rising cost of health insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

According to recently released numbers by the Department of Health and Human Services, health care spending went up 9.3% in 2003, and 8.5% in 2002. Family health care now accounts for nearly 20% of all personal income in this country.

According to the Employer Health Benefit Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2003, premiums for employer-based health insurance rose by 13.9% to $3,383 for individuals and $9,068 for families.

Overall, in the 3 years since Bush took office, rates have risen 37% for individuals and 41% for families, and out-of-pocket employee medical expenses not covered by insurance have risen nearly 50%.

Retirees are now paying more for health care but getting less. 71% of large employers have increased the amount that retirees must pay in premiums towards their employer-based plan. Yet, even after raising premiums, 7 in ten companies still plan to raise retiree deductibles over the next 3 years, and one in ten plans to eliminate insurance benefits for future retirees altogether.

Hikes in Medicare premiums have really hurt retired seniors on fixed incomes. Since Bush took office, monthly premiums for Medicare Part B have risen 46%, and they are expected to increase another 13.5% this year.

The pharmaceutical industry is not only one of the largest Bush contributors, it is also the most profitable industry in the country. Its desire for profits is a driving force in the rise in prescription drug costs.

In just one year, the price of the 10 most commonly used drugs went up an average of 8.7%. Prescription drugs now account for 23% of out-of-pocket medical expenses across the board.

As a result of a contributor payback provision in the Bush Medicare Bill, many seniors will end up paying higher fees for prescription medication. The provision prohibits Medicare from negotiating for lower prices with drugmakers, and it blocks the importation of cheaper drugs from countries like Canada.

You know it represents blatant contributor influence-peddling when a guy like Senator John McCain, a member of Bush's own party, describes the prohibition as a "a living, breathing testimonial to the political influence of the pharmaceutical companies."

Those people still wondering what happened to their money from the Bush tax cuts, should check to see how much they lost over the past 3 years during visits to a doctor, hospital or pharmacist.



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