Nearly a decade ago, the first-year growing pains of the Medicare drug benefit drew a heated yet largely supportive political response. Politicians railed against government incompetence as nightly news reports featured dazed seniors sifting through the multiple plan choices offered on a government website. Newspapers editorialized about missteps in the program.
Yet within a few years, virtually all of those transient reactions turned into solid support for the program. Tens of millions of seniors figured out how to take advantage of the new benefit. They richly rewarded the private-sector firms that bet on its success. The insurance companies who sold the private policies had a wedge for selling their Medicare Advantage plans, and the drug companies profited greatly from the expanded market.
In fact, the program was so successful that Democratic leaders quickly turned to how to plug gaps in the coverage, the so-called doughnut hole. It was largely eliminated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
What a difference between that experience and the rollout of the ACA, now just a few months away.