Bush to Propose Funding for Rx Benefit in FY 2003
President Bush plans to propose funding for Medicare reforms, including a prescription drug benefit, in his fiscal year 2003 budget, but will "leave the details for Congress to work out," the AP/Nando Times reports. After a White House meeting with Bush, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said that the president's budget would "reprise" his proposal for Medicare reform from last year, which included $190 billion over 10 years to "reshape" the program. White House Office of Management and Budget spokesperson Trent Duffy said that Bush also will propose a prescription drug benefit for seniors as part of the reforms. Bush's Medicare reform proposal last year, which also contained few details, "went nowhere in Congress" as a result of "partisan differences" and the "attention devoted" to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The AP/Nando Times reports that the $190 billion proposal this year would allow the White House to "assert its support for an issue polls show is important to voters." Congressional leaders from both parties have said that they hope to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit this year. However, the AP/Nando Times reports that proposals to add a prescription drug benefit to the program will likely "meet even more difficulties this year because huge federal surpluses" estimated last year have become deficits (Fram, AP/Nando Times, 1/18).
Meanwhile, OMB Director Mitchell Daniels said yesterday that Bush will propose $10 billion to $15 billion in additional funds for homeland security -- including several health-related provisions -- in his FY 2003 budget. Daniels said that the biggest area of spending increases would be aimed at improving the nation's ability to respond to terrorist attacks, an effort which entails improving public health response systems. While he said that many government programs and agencies will have their funding "frozen or cut back" to cover the cost of additional spending on homeland security, the "completion of the doubling" of the National Institutes of Health budget will still occur "even under these circumstances"(Lambro, Washington Times, 1/18).