Bush to Unveil ‘Set of Principles’ for Medicare Reform
President Bush, responding to the Senate power shift, will soon submit a Medicare reform plan, including "sweeping changes that would vastly expand the private sector's role" in providing health coverage and prescription drug benefits, the Wall Street Journal reports. However, the administration may scrap a Bush campaign plan to establish an "immediate helping-hand" program, which would have provided states with grants to pay for prescription drug coverage, a plan "widely derided" as "unworkable" by many lawmakers. Still, a White House official said that Bush would retain the helping-hand plan alternative in case lawmakers fail to reach an agreement on "broad" Medicare reform. Rather than offering specific legislation, Bush will outline a "set of guidelines" for Medicare reform similar to the ideas discussed by former President Clinton's Medicare commission, which considered having private insurers to compete with traditional Medicare in a system similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
The Journal reports that while Bush intended to pursue Medicare reform this year, he would have preferred first to address energy policy, patients' rights and Social Security. After assuming control of the Senate earlier this month, however, Democratic party leaders decided to "fast-track" Medicare reform, forcing Bush to take up the issue. Senate Democrats are backing a $318 billion-plan that would provide all seniors with prescription drug coverage directly through Medicare, with premiums and co-pays based on beneficiary income (Murray/Vandehei, Wall Street Journal, 6/15).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.