House GOP to Send Different Versions of a Medicare Reform Bill Through Two Committees
As House Democrats unveiled their proposal for a $750 billion to $800 billion, 10-year Medicare prescription drug benefit yesterday, House Republicans said they will send different versions of their Medicare reform package to the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees next week, CongressDaily reports. House Republicans have been unable to agree on the scope of reforms to include in their package, prompting them to devise two versions. The strategy allows GOP leaders to put off "the thorny decision" of whether to make moderate Republicans vote for changes that Democrats could say are an attempt to privatize Medicare or make conservative Republicans vote for a bill that would add new costs to Medicare but not include substantial reforms, Congress Daily reports. In comparison to the bill the Energy and Commerce Committee will consider, the version House GOP members send to the Ways and Means reportedly will include more overall Medicare reforms, including a copayment for home-health services and a new, competitive bidding system for purchasing medical supplies. The Energy and Commerce bill also might lack increased payments for Medicare+Choice plans. House Republicans are aiming to bring a bill to the House floor before the July 4 recess (Congress Daily, 6/13).
Meanwhile, House Democrats said their drug benefit plan would provide more meaningful relief than the GOP plan, the Hartford Courant reports. "Our plan is real; the Republican plan is a press release," House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), said (MacDonald, Hartford Courant, 6/14). Under the Democratic plan, seniors would pay a $25 monthly premium and a $100 annual deductible, with the government covering 80% of costs up to $2,000 and all costs after that (Freking, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 6/14). Latest drafts of the House GOP plan call for a $250 deductible and a $35 premium, with the government covering 80% of drug costs up to $1,000, 50% up to $2,000 and no coverage between $2,000 and $4,500. A 100% catastrophic coverage benefit would kick in after $4,500 in costs (California Healthline, 6/13). Republicans, whose drug benefit plan would cost $350 billion over 10 years, countered that the Democratic proposal is unaffordable. "They should be honest with hard-working taxpayers and America's seniors by telling us what programs they intend to cut to fund this bloated bureaucracy," Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.) said (Hartford Courant, 6/14). When asked about the cost of the House Democratic plan, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), said, "We have the resources to provide quality drug coverage in Medicare. In 2012 alone, the Republican tax cut would cost $229 billion, more than three times the amount that Republicans would designate for a Medicare drug benefit in that year" (Zagaroli, Detroit News, 6/14).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.