Democrats Fail to Amend Republican Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Plan
The House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday rejected several Democratic attempts to push through their Medicare drug benefit plan and amend a Republican-backed Medicare reform package, National Journal News Service reports. The Democratic proposal, which would cost between $750 billion and $900 billion over 10 years, would cover 80% of seniors' annual drug costs up to $2,000 and 100% above that figure. Seniors would pay a $100 annual deductible and a $25 monthly premium (Rich, National Journal News Service, 6/20). Under the $350 billion, 10-year House GOP plan, Medicare beneficiaries would purchase drug coverage directly from private insurance companies. They would pay a $250 annual deductible and a $34 monthly premium. Low-income seniors would be exempt from the premiums and deductible. The government would cover 80% of seniors' annual prescription drug costs up to $1,000, 50% up to $2,000 and none of the costs between $2,000 and $3,800, after which a catastrophic benefit would begin (California Healthline, 6/20).
Saying the GOP bill is an effort to privatize Medicare, Democrats attempted to replace the Republican plan with their own, but the committee rejected the Democrats' bill on a 24-30 party-line vote. Republicans said the Democratic plan is "wildly unrealistic, unaffordable" and would "bankrupt Medicare." The committee also rejected an amendment by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) that would have provided seniors with a "fallback government program" in areas with "limited" prescription drug options. Two amendments by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) also failed: a provision to close the gap in coverage in the Republican bill and an amendment requiring insurers to publish information on the discounts they receive from drug companies. Further, the panel defeated an amendment by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that would have required "rigid privacy protections" for seniors who enroll in drug plans electronically. The panel is working to complete its markup of the bill before the weekend (National Journal News Service, 6/20). The House Ways and Means Committee earlier this week passed the House GOP bill (HR 4954); House Republicans plan to schedule a floor vote on the package before the July 4 recess (California Healthline, 6/19).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.