House Republicans to Offer $300 Billion, 10-Year Prescription Drug Benefit for Medicare Beneficiaries
House Republicans plan to propose legislation to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare that would cost about 60% more than the plan President Bush included in his fiscal year 2003 budget proposal, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), who will draft the legislation, said that Republicans are looking to spend an amount of money that is "very similar" to but "slightly higher" than the amount they included in their last budget, which was $300 billion over 10 years (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/4). The amount "would be significantly higher" than the $190 billion over 10 years that Bush has proposed for a Medicare prescription drug benefit (USA Today, 3/5). "We need to start a good prescription drug program that we can currently afford, and we can see how we can grow it into a quality program," Thomas said (CongressDaily/AM, 3/5). Thomas said that the bill would cover low-income seniors. He also said he would consider a provision that would require Medicare beneficiaries to cover the difference in cost between brand-name treatments and generic versions of the drugs. Although exected to be larger than Bush's plan, the House Republican prescription drug benefit proposal would still likely offer "far less" than a $750 billion proposal supported by AARP. In a letter sent to lawmakers last week, AARP CEO William Novelli said that the organization's plan, which includes $400 billion from the Medicare Part A trust fund, would "enable Congress to craft a prescription drug benefit that is closer to what many believe adequate coverage will cost." However, Thomas said that the AARP proposal "is so far beyond a realistic attempt to deliver that it's as if they offered no plan" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/4).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.