Frist Calls Medicare Program ‘Antiquated,’ Says It Cannot Sustain Itself
In an interview with the Tennessean editorial board Friday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that Medicare is an "antiquated system" that cannot sustain itself in the current health care market, especially with the number of baby boomers about to enter the system, the Tennessean reports. "The taxes coming in can't support [Medicare] today," Frist said, noting that the number of seniors will double over 30 years while the number of workers paying into the system per beneficiary will fall from 3.9 today to 2.4 by 2030. Frist said, "the legislative stars are aligned" to pass Medicare reform and that President Bush "will be supportive," but he added, "My challenge is how you strengthen it, improve it or modernize it." Frist said that about $400 billion over 10 years is designated for a prescription drug benefit for Medicare. To address the high cost of prescription drugs, Frist said that he would use "large purchasing" along with increased use of generic drugs and a tracking procedure to determine if television advertising keeps patients from using generic drugs. Frist said that the tracking procedure also would monitor other prescription drug consumption patterns, adding, "If you look at all 33 million Medicare patients, 5% account for 50% of the spending. The problem is you can't capture those 5% in the data you have today." Frist said that he plans to introduce Medicare legislation in June and that he anticipates that the issue will be difficult, especially convincing other legislators that change will work. Frist also said that he has found a way to defeat the Democratic filibuster of Bush judicial nominees Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen, but that in doing so he would "blow the system up" and would then not be able to pass Medicare legislation (Paine, Tennessean, 5/3).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.