Bush Expected To Push Medicare Reforms This Week
President Bush is expected "later this week" to outline his proposals for a Medicare reform package, including a prescription drug benefit, CongressDaily/AM reports. The president "wants to include his ... principles" as Congress develops Medicare reform legislation. CongressDaily/AM reports that Bush is expected to call for a "universal, voluntary" Medicare drug benefit to be delivered through a "private sector" system, as well as a "major reform" of the current Medicare program. In doing so, Bush will likely "revis[t]" the positions he took earlier this year when he outlined a prescription drug program called "Immediate Helping Hand" (Fulton, CongressDaily/AM, 7/10). That plan would provide $46 billion over four years in block grants to states to help low-income seniors purchase prescription drugs. The plan has been criticized by Congress members as "too narrow" and taking too long to implement.
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CongressDaily/AM reports that as early as the end of July, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to hold hearings on Medicare prescription drug legislation that it is currently drafting. During that consideration, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) plans to introduce an amendment to "undo" a court ruling that "struck down" a prescription drug program in Vermont in June (CongressDaily/AM, 7/10). The program, called the Pharmacy Discount Program, would have offered Medicaid prescription drug benefits to low-income seniors and some nonelderly adults who would not qualify for the traditional Medicaid program. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that HHS acted "improperly" in approving the program. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has filed suit against the federal government over a similar program in Maine. Snowe's amendment -- based on a separate bill sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and James Jeffords (I-Vt.) -- would give Vermont and Maine the authority to offer such discounts and allow the HHS secretary to grant waivers to other states wishing to implement similar plans (CongressDaily/AM, 7/10).