Grassley Prepared to Address Health Care
Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is "poised to take an active role in shaping health care policy this year" and is "not likely to be simply an instrument" for pushing President-elect Bush's agenda, CongressDaily reports. In an interview yesterday with the publication, Grassley said he will talk to the president-elect about a "more comprehensive" prescription drug benefit than the one Bush touted during the campaign. Bush's proposal would provide states with $12 billion a year over four years for low-income seniors to purchase prescription drugs while exploring the use of insurers to provide broader drug coverage to seniors. Noting Democrats' opposition to the plan and the evenly split Finance Committee, Grassley said that the Senate may need to "forget about helping low income seniors this year" and opt to work on a "broader bipartisan bill." As Finance Committee chair, Grassley plans to convene a six-month, bipartisan Medicare commission to investigate "overhauling" the system. Grassley said the new commission would "increase bipartisan support" for changing the system and could examine the conclusions found by a 1998 Medicare commission that was headed by Sens. John Breaux (D-La.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Grassley also intends to continue work on expanding Medicaid benefits to working parents of "children with special needs." Last session, Grassley co-sponsored the Family Opportunity Act (S. 2274) with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). The measure would have extended Medicaid benefits to working parents of special-needs children, but it was opposed by a "handful of conservatives." In addition, Grassley indicated he would address staffing shortages at nursing homes by urging HHS Secretary-designate Tommy Thompson to issue a report on the situation (Fulton, CongressDaily, 1/16).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.