Health Care Among Democrats’ Legislative Priorities
If they win control of Congress in Tuesday's election, Democratic leaders likely would seek to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on medications under the prescription drug benefit and use the savings to eliminate the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap, the Boston Globe reports.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, "If we get back the majority in either the House or the Senate, it's a pretty good bet that we will have the leverage to allow Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies, get the prices of drugs down and cover more people."
According to Roospesh Patel, an analyst at UBS, President Bush likely would veto any legislation that would revise the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Robert Blendon, a health care policy and political analysis professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said, "Both the Republicans and the Democrats, in some sense, have won on the drug bill. What the Republicans have succeeded in doing is to reduce the share of older voters who mention Medicare as an issue in voting. But of those who still care, Democrats have the edge" (Henderson, Boston Globe, 11/3).
In addition to negotiating drug prices through Medicare, Democrats also likely would seek to expand enrollment in SCHIP to more children and increase federal funding for stem cell research, the Washington Times reports.
Scott Lilly, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said, "If the Democrats take one or both Houses of Congress, the prospects of significant policy changes seem fairly remote." Lilly added, "That does not mean the next two years will not be an important period. There is the possibility of a rich debate over policy options that the country has not had in more than half a decade -- in particular on health care."
In the event that Republicans retain control of the Congress after the midterm elections, they likely would seek "to improve the private health care system through an expansion of health savings accounts and tax deductions for people in private plans," according to the Times (Lopes, Washington Times, 11/3).
PBS' "Nightly Business Report" on Thursday reported on the role of the Medicare prescription drug benefit in the midterm elections. The segment includes comments from Joseph Antos, a scholar in health care and retirement policy at the American Enterprise Institute; Gail Shearer, director of health policy analysis for Consumers Union; and Gail Wilensky, a senior fellow at Project HOPE (Dhue, "Nightly Business Report," PBS, 11/2).
The complete transcript is available online.