MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT: Experts Predict Decision by 2000
According to experts on aging who addressed a meeting of the American Society on Aging in Philadelphia yesterday, "Congress will likely pass some type of prescription drug benefit for seniors this year," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Panelists also estimated that Medicare reform will be postponed until after the 2000 election. The three panelists, Jeanette Takamura, assistant secretary for aging for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Richard Browdie, Pennsylvania's secretary of aging and president of the American Society on Aging and Robert Blancato, a Washington lobbyist and former chair of the White House Conference on Aging, predicted Congress may legislate minor changes to reduce the ill-effects of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, but major changes remain unlikely. After Congress' vigorous discussion of a Medicare drug benefit, Browdie said it is compelled to act. Additionally, the panelists expect an expansion of the Older Americans Act to include "caregiver support programs: respite care, adult day-care and other supplemental long-term care services" (Vitez, 7/13). Additional motivation to approve a Medicare drug benefit is lawmakers' desire to claim "a bauble to display before some of the nation's most active voters: the older generation," the AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) predicts that "the House will approve later this year some help with drug costs for the neediest retirees." However, Medicare's political weight may "spoil chances for a deal." Victor Kamber, a Democratic Party consultant, said, "Both parties feel they want to do something, and both want to take credit, but neither party trusts one another" (7/11).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.