The Bush administration announced Thursday that it would conduct a lottery to select 50,000 people who will receive Medicare coverage of prescription drugs in the next 18 months, before drug coverage becomes available to all Medicare beneficiaries in 2006.
The lottery is part of an unusual experiment to test the new benefit among people with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and a few other diseases.
In authorizing the experiment, Congress provided $500 million. Forty percent of the money, or $200 million, is earmarked for oral cancer drugs that patients can take on their own, as a replacement for drugs they receive by injection or infusion in a doctor's office.
Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, said that 500,000 to 600,000 people might be eligible to compete for the 50,000 slots.
The government, Mr. Thompson said, will select participants at random from the pool of applicants, alternating between cancer patients and those with other serious diseases.
It's the Bush administration's new reality TV show: "Competing for Chemotherapy."
This compassionate conservativism know no boundaries. They can take away Grandma Millie's cancer medicine at the same time they're cutting her electricity: "Just cut 'em off. They're so f----d. They should just bring back f-----g horses and carriages, f-----g lamps, f-----g kerosene lamps."