Bill Would Give Rx Drug Benefit to All Seniors
A group of senators yesterday introduced a bill (S 1135) that would reform Medicare and add a prescription drug benefit to the program, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The bill, introduced by Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), would create a voluntary drug benefit available to all seniors. To participate, seniors would pay a $250 annual deductible, after which the government would pay 50% of seniors' prescription drug costs up to $3,500, 75% of costs between $3,500 and $4,000 and all costs after $4,000. According to Graham, the "income-based premiums" would cost beneficiaries about $52 per month. Pharmacy benefit managers would run the program and their fees would "depend on performance," Graham said. The bill also would add preventive benefits to Medicare, allow Medicare to use cost-saving and competitive management practices and establish a panel of experts who would make Medicare coverage decisions. Graham, who said he hopes the bill will be a "benchmark" for future Medicare reform debates, is "trying to win over moderate Republicans on the Finance Committee." Some moderate Republicans will endorse the bill, according to Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), a bill co-sponsor (Harris, Orlando Sentinel, 6/29). Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.), another of the bill's co-sponsors, said, "This is something like a patients' bill of rights ... Just as the American people are ready for us to protect them from HMOs, our seniors are ready for us to protect them from high drug costs" (Pean, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/29).