12/21/2005 08:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As costs rise: Senate cuts budget for elderly, students

Let us factor in savings in the budget bill passed by the Senate today on Vice-President Cheney's tie-breaking vote.

This rundown is based on information from the Associated Press:

Student loans. $12.7 billion in net savings, achieved chiefly by reducing lender subsidies and retaining a scheduled shift from variable interest rates to a 6.8 percent fixed rate on most loans. Increases loan limits to $3,500 for first-year students and from $3,500 to $4,500 for second-year students.

All at the same time that the College Board reports:

At four-year private nonprofit institutions, tuition and fees average $1,190 more than last year ($21,235 versus $20,045, a 5.9 percent increase). Total charges average $29,026 ($1,561 more than last year's $27,465, a 5.7 percent increase)

At four-year public institutions, tuition and fees average $365 more than last year ($5,491 versus $5,126, a 7.1 percent increase). Total charges average $12,127 ($751 more than last year's $11,376, a 6.6 percent increase).

At two-year public institutions, tuition and fees average $112 more than last year ($2,191 versus $2,079, a 5.4 percent increase).

Hmm. I wonder how many of those students whose tuition assistance may be cut have either been apolitical, or young Republicans?

Medicare. Saves a net $6.4 billion over five years from the health care program for the elderly. Saves $6.5 billion over five years by increasing Medicare payments to insurers that cover sicker patients and lowering payments to those covering healthier patients. Accelerates premium increases for better-off Medicare patients for doctor visits. Increases Medicare beneficiaries' premiums for coverage of doctor visits by about $2.30 a month in 2007. Saves $2.8 billion by reducing payments for imaging services, and saves $2 billion by freezing payments to home health care providers. Provides $7 billion for doctor's fees to avoid a 4.4 percent cut otherwise taking effect Jan. 1.

National health care expenses per person, 2005 estimate: $6,423. In 2007: $7,478. Source: Office of the Actuary at the U.S. Department of Health and Hunan Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Medicaid. Saves $4.8 billion from the health care program for the poor and disabled by reducing payments for prescription drugs, tightening asset-transfer rules for nursing home eligibility, permitting states to reduce benefits and increasing co-payments paid by beneficiaries.

Manufacturer prices for brand name drugs rose 6.1 percent in the 12 months ending with the second quarter (June) of 2005, when measured as a 12-month rolling average and weighted by actual 2003 sales to Americans age 50 and over. The manufacturer price increase for this most recent time period was more than
twice the 3.0 percent rate of general inflation.- Source, AARP Public Policy Institute.

Hmm, I have to wonder how many of the elderly who will find their prescription drug benefits slashed have "W" stickers on their SUVs, and are flying flags and brandishing "Support Our Troops" stickers to show support for a war with costs that could have been used to help them pay for needed medicines. Medicines for real threats such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration.

Speaking of, we are spending $6 billion a month in Iraq. One month's expenditures in Iraq flighting a war that toppled a regime that was not involved in 9/11 and didn't have weapons of mass destruction for several years is greater than five years of savings on prescription drugs and other benefits for the elderly.

Some of the same elderly that, like signficant numbers of their (and my) fellow Americans, support the war.

And tax cuts for the wealthy? Don't even get me started on that.