MEDICARE Rx BENEFIT: Democrats Push Their Own Proposal
Five Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee plan to introduce a Medicare drug benefit bill, as their Republican counterparts work to finalize their own version, the New York Times reports. The announcement comes a day before the House Ways and Means Committee votes on legislation to allow outpatient drug benefits under Medicare. Led by Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), the Senate bill is supported by five of the nine Democratic members on the Finance Committee, including Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Richard Bryan (Nev.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Chuck Robb (Va.). Under their proposal, the government would pay half of an individual's drug expenses from $250 to $3,500 and would cover 75% of costs from $3,500 to $4,000 each year. The government would also cover 100% of costs more than $4,000 per year. Those with higher incomes would pay a greater share of premium costs. The Democrats' plan would begin basic drug coverage and catastrophic coverage for very high drug costs in 2003. The House Republican proposal differs from the Senate version in that it creates a "gap in coverage:" the government would pay 50% of drug costs between $250 and $2,100; until costs reached $6,000, the beneficiary would be entirely responsible for those costs. Senate Finance Committee Chair William Roth (R-Del.) met with committee members last week to achieve a resolution, but members from both sides called the sessions "unproductive" (Pear, 6/20).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.