Likely presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) tried to shore-up his conservative credentials yesterday by telling Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace that he should have voted against the Medicare prescription drug bill in 2003 because the measure was not paid for. “I would say that that was a mistake,” Santorum said. “We did two things that were wrong in the bill. Number one we made it universal…number two, we should have paid for it.”
But Santorum praised the measure as recently as February 2011, when, during an appearance on Fox News, he called the law “a good allocation of money” and even went so far as to defend Republicans for creating the now infamous Medicare doughnut hole of coverage:
SANTORUM: They got an expansion of the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, but that program was designed to do two things: take care of seniors who were poor and needed drug coverage and those who are high users of prescription drugs. It did both. It left a little hole in the middle for those, who frankly could afford to do it. And that was a good allocation of money.
Little may be in the eye of the beholder. Under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, enrollees enter the doughnut hole when their total drug spending equals $2,830 and receive no Medicare coverage until they reach $6,440 in total drug spending. Almost three and half million, or 26 percent, of Medicare Part D enrollees reached this coverage gap in 2007 and those who couldn’t afford to pay for their medications stopped taking medicines altogether.
Santorum’s positions may be a bit all over the map, but they all point in one direction: less benefits for seniors. He is now running on a platform that says: fewer seniors should benefit from prescription drug coverage and that today’s Medicare program should be radically restructured so that seniors have to buy coverage from a private health insurer.