Congress Likely To Consider Health Care Issues in 2007
Congress next year likely will consider Medicare reforms, prescription drug safety issues and efforts to cover the uninsured, with "both parties working to lay claim to what they expect will be popular issues with voters" in the 2008 election, USA Today reports.
Some Democrats, such as incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), likely will seek to require the federal government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies on prices for medications under the Medicare prescription drug benefit. However, "there is disagreement on how it would be done and whether it would result in lower prices than the current method of having private insurers negotiate the prices," USA Today reports.
In addition, Congress likely will consider payments to Medicare Advantage plans -- managed care plans sponsored by private health insurers -- as some Democrats, such as Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), have raised concerns that the plans cost more than the traditional fee-for-service program. According to USA Today, "efforts to reduce those payments are likely to hit opposition from lawmakers who see Medicare Advantage plans as important private sector options for beneficiaries."
Congress also might consider efforts to improve the long-term finances of Medicare and the elimination of the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap in the prescription drug benefit.
Democrats next year likely will seek to expand the SCHIP program to cover more children. Congress also might provide funds to states for pilot programs that test proposals to cover more uninsured residents.
In addition, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) last week announced plans to introduce legislation that would guarantee health insurance for all U.S. residents and reduce health care costs. According to USA Today, "Wyden's proposal may test whether the idea of broad federal health reform can win centrist support after years in which such proposals have been largely absent and considered too politically risky," but "few expect that broad efforts to cover more uninsured will pass."
Meanwhile, Democrats and some Republicans, such as Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), likely will seek to address concerns about the process FDA uses to review experimental medications and the failure of many pharmaceutical companies to conduct postmarket safety studies of new treatments (Appleby, USA Today, 12/19).