House, Senate Negotiators To Consider ‘Means Testing’ Provision in Final Medicare Bill
Members of the conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate Medicare bills (HR 1 and S 1) this week plan to consider a provision that would require higher-income beneficiaries to pay higher premiums for physician and other out-of-hospital services as part of a larger effort to "slow growth in the government's costs for Medicare," the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The proposed "means testing" provision, which does not appear in the Medicare bills passed earlier this year in the House and Senate, would base Medicare Part B premiums for out-of-hospital services on the incomes of beneficiaries, according to an internal Republican document. Medicare conferees to date have not formally considered such a proposal, which "may or may not win approval," according to several unnamed congressional aides, the AP/Sun reports. In addition, Medicare conferees this week plan to consider whether to charge higher-income beneficiaries with large pharmaceutical costs more for prescription drug coverage than lower-income beneficiaries, according to the internal Republican document. Many Democrats, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), oppose means testing because they maintain that a "fundamental principle" of Medicare is that "all beneficiaries receive a standard benefit at a fixed cost," the AP/Sun reports. However, supporters, such as Sens. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), maintain that Medicare must adopt means testing to account for the longer life expectancies of beneficiaries and the related increase in medical costs (Espo, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/27).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.