Lawmakers Want More Money for Rx Drug Benefit than Bush Proposed
Congressional members drafting a budget blueprint said yesterday at a Senate Budget Committee hearing that they would dedicate "substantially more money" than President Bush would to a Medicare prescription drug benefit, the New York Times reports. Bush has proposed spending a total of $153 billion for drug benefits as part of his comprehensive Medicare reform plan to take place between 2002 and 2011. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) called Bush's request "inadequate," particularly considering new Congressional Budget Office figures showing that drug spending for the elderly and those with disabilities will be up to 33% higher than what the agency estimated 10 months ago. Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said that the Republicans' budget proposal would include a "considerably larger" amount for prescription drugs than what Bush wanted. According to Senate Republican aides, Republicans likely would devote 24%-31% more than what Bush proposed -- between $190 billion and $200 billion in total -- for a drug benefit and Medicare overhaul during the next decade. Grassley noted that Bush devised his proposal before the new CBO figures were available, adding that Republicans would use the President's plan as a "starting point"(Pear, New York Times, 3/7).