By Tony Pugh
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON — The Medicare prescription drug benefit has been cursed for its failures and celebrated for its triumphs.
The program’s flaws and shortcomings were exposed early and often in the first few months after its January launch. However, recent news of lower-than-expected drug costs, patient satisfaction and a seemingly successful enrollment drive have given the program a new bounce that could help Republicans fend off future Democratic attacks.
The cost of the drug benefit has declined from a projected $737 billion over 10 years to $675 billion. Beneficiary premiums are averaging $25 a month, down from $37 in last July’s budget estimates. And the projected net cost to taxpayers for 2006 will be $30.5 billion, 20 percent less than an earlier estimate of $38.1 billion.
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