Bush Allocation Rx Drug Benefit Called Inadequate
Congressional Budget Office Director Dan Crippen said yesterday that the $153 billion over 10 years that President Bush has proposed for Medicare reform and a prescription drug benefit would provide only a "fairly thin" benefit, CongressDaily/A.M. reports (Fulton, CongressDaily/A.M., 3/23). Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, agreed, saying, "Everybody knows that figure is gone" (CongressDaily, 3/22). Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Walker said that based on CBO estimates that Medicare beneficiaries will consume $1.5 trillion worth of prescription drugs in the next decade, "a drug benefit that covered 50% of enrollees' spending would cost about $728 billion," and one that covered all expenses beyond $1,000 would cost $1.1 trillion. Given that Medicare spending is growing faster than the overall economy and that the retirement of the baby boomers between 2010 and 2030 will double participation in the program, Crippen said, "Adding a drug benefit would significantly increase Medicare's costs, and unless it was fully financed by enrollees' premiums, it would exacerbate the imbalance between the program's projected spending and its dedicated revenues" (CongressDaily/A.M., 3/23). Tauzin, speaking to reporters, said that the $153 billion figure was set "before CBO re-estimated last year's House bill," which he said was "already over $200 billion and climbing." He added that he wanted to build on that proposal by fixing the "several-thousand dollar gap between the drug expenses the bill would initially cover and the 'catastrophic stop loss amount' above which insurance would pay the full cost." Tauzin also said that the House would not pass a bill this year that addressed prescription drugs without also tackling comprehensive Medicare reform (CongressDaily, 3/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.