GOP, Democrats Unveil Rival Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Proposals
As expected, members of Congress yesterday outlined rival proposals to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, the Washington Post reports (Goldstein, Washington Post, 5/2). House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) predicted that the House would approve a Republican-sponsored Medicare prescription drug benefit bill by Memorial Day, which would allow the Senate to address the legislation this year (Pear, New York Times, 5/2). According to House Ways and Means Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), who offered "tentative details" about the GOP bill yesterday, the legislation would require Medicare beneficiaries to pay a $35 to $40 monthly premium and a $250 annual deductible for prescription drug coverage (Rovner, CongressDaily, 5/1). Under the bill, Medicare beneficiaries would receive coverage for 70% to 80% of the first $1,000 of their annual prescription drug costs and coverage for 50% of their annual costs between $1,000 and $2,250. Seniors would have to cover 100% of their annual prescription drug costs between $2,250 and $5,000, but the legislation would cover 100% of annual costs more than $5,000 (Fagan, Washington Times, 5/2). The bill would provide prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries with annual incomes less than 135% of the federal poverty level at no cost, and seniors with annual incomes "slightly above that level" would receive "aid on a sliding scale" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 5/1). The legislation also would include a plan that President Bush announced last summer to offer pharmacy discount cards for Medicare beneficiaries (Espo, AP/Nando Times, 5/1). The bill would not cost more than $350 billion over 10 years. Hastert yesterday announced a 43-member Speaker's Prescription Drug Action Team, which Thomas and House Energy and Commerce Chair Billy Tauzin (R-La.) will chair, to help move the proposal through the House (Washington Times, 5/2).
Meanwhile, Sens. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) and Bob Graham (D-Fla.) yesterday introduced a rival prescription drug benefit bill that would cost about $425 billion between 2004 and 2010, when the legislation would expire (Fulton/Rovner, CongressDaily, 5/1). The bill would require Medicare beneficiaries to pay a $25 monthly premium with no annual deductible (New York Times, 5/1). Under the legislation, seniors would receive coverage for 50% of their annual prescription drug costs less than $4,000 and coverage for 100% of annual costs more than $4,000 (Fulton/Rovner, CongressDaily, 5/1). Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) predicted that the Senate would pass the bill by August (Washington Post, 5/2).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.