House Democrats To Outline New Health Care Agenda With Focus on Expansion of Health Coverage
House Democrats on Wednesday plan to outline a new health care agenda that will seek to legalize the reimportation of prescription drugs from abroad, allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on medications and extend health insurance to more U.S. residents, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. According to materials released by the office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), "Democrats are putting forward specific steps to promote fairness by improving health care," such as "expanding access to affordable health care coverage ... cutting health care costs, increasing biomedical research and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care."
The agenda will seek to provide a 50% tax credit to help small businesses and the self-employed purchase health insurance and extend coverage to 7.5 million low-income working parents whose children are enrolled in the SCHIP program. In addition, the agenda would seek to allow adults between the ages of 55 and 65 to purchase health coverage through Medicare and provide them with tax credits to make the cost more affordable.
House Democrats did not release a cost estimate for their agenda or indicate potential sources of funds.
According to the AP/Sun, Democrats have "no hope of winning passage of their agenda on their own and little hope of gaining the Republican support they would need to prevail" (Espo, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/3).
In addition, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan likely will oppose efforts by House Democrats to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on prescription drugs. McClellan said that medication prices likely will decrease or stabilize for Medicare beneficiaries under the new prescription drug benefit.
According to CMS Chief Actuary Richard Foster, "Medicare prescription drug plans will have a strong incentive to negotiate effective price reductions. Pharmacy benefit managers had had substantial experience with such efforts and have demonstrated their effectiveness for many years" (Lightman, Hartford Courant, 5/4).
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Tuesday included an interview with Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) about Congress' approval last week of a federal budget resolution that calls for a $10 billion reduction in Medicaid funding over five years (Suarez, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 5/4). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.