MEDICARE: Breaux Lays Out Endgame for Commission
In an interview with the Baton Rouge Advocate, Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) reiterated his intent to bring premium support to the House and Senate -- with or without a recommendation from the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. "The Senate Finance Committee could take [the premium support proposal] and bring it to the floor ... And I dare say that [Rep.] Bill Thomas (R-CA) would do the same at the (House) Ways and Means Committee," he said. That said, Breaux still harbors hopes of convincing swing Democratic panel members to vote for premium support, and maintains he is open to modifications. Two general areas ripe for compromise are "a drug package and defining the benefits package a little bit more in detail," he noted. Breaux said, "I'm the most amenable guy in Congress," but noted he "doesn't have much room to maneuver on the 'highly polarized' commission." Breaux said he canceled tomorrow's commission meeting because "actuaries need more time to produce the economic analysis of his legislation, he is still drafting a response to commission Democrats who have attacked his bill, and the three Senate members who serve on the Medicare commission may have impeachment trial conflicts on Tuesday" (McKinney, 2/7).
An Advocate editorial touts Breaux's plan, arguing that "premium support deals with some critical issues facing Medicare in the coming decades. It preserves the no-frills hospitalization plan that is the basis of Medicare, but also offers more choice, including the potential for plans to offer drug coverage as an option. ... The premium support model gives Medicare recipients an opportunity to shop around for lower costs, but also the chance to shop around for a plan that is a better fit for their lives." The paper concludes the commission "has provided a healthy, bipartisan, policy-oriented debate about a significant issue affecting millions of Americans. Over the last 12 months in Washington, that's something" (2/7).