Committee Meetings Weigh Options for Medicare Drug Benefit
Medicare officials will testify before the Senate Committee on Aging on Thursday about how they are addressing various problems with the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, many lawmakers "got an earful" from beneficiaries about the drug benefit while visiting their districts over the winter congressional recess, and they will now consider whether to make legislative adjustments to the program or "wait and see whether the glitches work themselves out."
Lawmakers' "big concerns" with the drug benefit include the "dizzying array" of drug plans from which beneficiaries can choose and the "coverage breakdown" for beneficiaries who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, the Post reports.
Next Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee will address the drug benefit in a follow-up hearing to a meeting last week with committee members and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.
After that session, committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said he agreed with Leavitt that legislative action is not necessary to address problems with the drug benefit. He added, "We should focus on administrative remedies because they will be faster than legislation."
Many Democrats are urging Republicans to "streamline" the program to "make its easier ... to navigate" and "provide emergency relief" to beneficiaries who cannot obtain prescriptions, according to the Post (Murray/Babington, Washington Post, 1/31).
Several NPR programs reported recently on the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
- NPR's "Fresh Air": The segment includes comments from Jonathan Oberlander, associate professor of social medicine at the University of North Carolina and co-editor of the book "The Social Medicine Reader, Volume III: Health Policy, Markets and Medicine" (Gross, "Fresh Air," NPR, 1/31). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
- NPR's "Fresh Air": The segment includes comments from Christine Cassel, president of the American Board of Internal Medicine and author of the book "Medicare Matters: What Geriatric Medicine Can Teach American Health Care" (Gross, "Fresh Air," NPR, 1/31). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
- NPR's "Talk of the Nation": The segment includes comments from Tricia Neuman, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of its Medicare Policy Project; Leslie Norwalk, deputy administrator at CMS; and Julie Rovner, NPR health policy correspondent (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 1/30). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.