House Speaker Dennis Hastert Announces Principles for Medicare Reform Bill
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) yesterday announced principles for legislation to reform Medicare and add a prescription drug benefit to the program, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 5/1). In a meeting with Hispanic media, Hastert said that Medicare reform legislation should:
- Allow beneficiaries to participate voluntarily in a Medicare plan that provides prescription drug coverage and negotiates discounts on the price of medications;
- Help beneficiaries reduce their prescription drug costs;
- Provide additional help to low-income beneficiaries;
- Provide beneficiaries more options under Medicare;
- Cap out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries;
- Ensure delivery of health care to beneficiaries in rural and urban areas; and
- Enact structural improvements to limit health care costs that could endanger the financial future of Medicare.
Meanwhile, aides to Bush said that they hope June "will be Medicare month," as Congress considers the Medicare reform framework that he introduced earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reports (Cummings/Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 5/2). Medicare beneficiaries would have three options under the framework. Under one option, beneficiaries could remain in traditional fee-for-service Medicare; they would receive discount cards that they could use at pharmacies to save 10% to 25% on prescriptions, and Medicare would provide low-income beneficiaries with $600 per year to help cover prescription drug costs. In 2006, beneficiaries in traditional Medicare also would receive catastrophic prescription drug coverage. Under a second option, the framework would allow beneficiaries to enroll in a new private system called "Enhanced Medicare," which would begin in 2006 and provide beneficiaries with expanded prescription drug coverage, full coverage for preventive care and lower out-of-pocket costs for hospital stays. The third option, called "Medicare Advantage," would be similar to Medicare+Choice, which provides beneficiaries with a selection of private health plans with and without prescription drug coverage but no guarantee of coverage (California Healthline, 4/22). The "notoriously complex issue" of Medicare reform could fail to pass in Congress this year, but the White House hopes that "voters will give Bush credit for trying" to pass legislation, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 5/2).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.