Bush’s Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Needs Improvement, Los Angeles Times Says
Congress should "press" President Bush to "improve" the Medicare prescription drug benefit plan he will include in the fiscal year 2003 budget proposal submitted Feb. 4, a Los Angeles Times editorial says. Bush this week outlined a plan to allocate $77 billion over 10 years to help states cover medications for low-income seniors (Los Angeles Times, 1/31). Medicare beneficiaries with annual incomes between 100% and 150% of the federal poverty level, or between $11,610 and $17,415 for a couple, would be eligible. The federal government would cover 90% of the cost of the program and states would cover the remaining 10% (California Healthline, 1/29). Bush also requested an additional $113 billion over 10 years for a broad-scale Medicare reform plan that would eventually include a universal drug benefit.
The Times writes that Congress "must ensure" that a drug benefit contains two "basic goals" not currently present in Bush's plan. First, the eligibility limits for the state-administered portion of the benefit should be raised to include "the neediest middle-class" seniors, who wouldn't benefit from the $113 billion allocated for the larger reform proposal until fiscal year 2006. "What's needed is a new 'catastrophic drug benefit' to help the sickest Americans, not just those in families making less than $20,000 a year," the editorial states. Second, rather than Bush's proposal to allow states to decide which drugs to cover under the Medicare benefit, states should have to cover all drugs deemed medically essential by physicians, according to the editorial. Stating that the problems resulting from the lack of a benefit will "only get worse" when the baby boomers start retiring in 2010, the Times concludes: "That's why Congress and Bush must stop playing at reform and commit serious time and money to the problem now, even if it is more fun to bask in foreign policy triumphs and patriotic fervor" (Los Angeles Times, 1/31).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.