MEDICARE Rx: Clinton Plan to Contain Drug Benefit
HHS Secretary Donna Shalala yesterday told the Senate Budget Committee that President Clinton's as yet unreleased Medicare reform package will contain a "prescription drug benefit for all seniors, regardless of income, that is fully paid for with new revenues and offsets." She testified that Medicare solvency cannot be achieved without tapping "'new financing sources,' including 15% of the budget surplus." She also asserted that Sen. John Breaux's (D-LA) premium-support plan would not save money through competition, because Medicare's costs are already rising at a rate that is slower or on par with the private sector. Instead, she said, Breaux's plan would glean cost savings through means testing and shifting premium costs to beneficiaries. Shalala said the president's package would be unveiled "in time for Congress to debate and pass Medicare reform by the end of the year" (Morissey, CongressDaily, 4/22).
The Tennessee Angle
While it is possible to predict costs for hospital procedures among a given population, "it is virtually impossible to predict prescription costs," as one patient may need $30 in drugs per month, another may need $3,000, an editorial in the Chattanooga Free Press argues. Noting that the state's TennCare program is facing a financial crisis largely due to prescription drug costs, the editorial concludes: "Desirable proposals should be accompanied by the unpleasant facing of facts about the costs and the taxes the people will have to pay to cover them" (4/23).