MEDICARE Rx: Drug Industry Report Blasts Clinton Plan
President Clinton's "Medicare Modernization Act" would create 182 new mandates, beleaguer HCFA and endanger current coverage for many seniors, according to a Multinational Business Group report released yesterday, CongressDaily reports. The study, commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America, charged that Clinton's plan to cover outpatient prescription drugs under Medicare would impose overburdensome requirements on HCFA and the Pharmacy Benefits Managers who would run the prescription program. "If they ever had to put this into place it would be a formidable job," Jim Tozzi, a former Office of Management and Budget official who conducted the study, said. Bill Zitzmann of the American Society of Anesthesiologists agreed, arguing, "The vast infrastructure needed for this plan would take years to construct, if it even could be constructed." According to Robert Moffit of the Heritage Foundation, the proposal would "wholly swamp" HCFA, which "already has enormous problems handling Medicare Part A and Part B."
Meanwhile, in Giveback-Land ...
The prescription drug benefit has "taken a back seat" in the House and Senate, while lawmakers focus on providing Medicare "givebacks" to health care providers still suffering ill-effects from the 1997 Balanced Budget Act cuts. According to CongressDaily, committee members and staffers are "working furiously" to reach an agreement on giveback legislation that would allocate funds to hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, HMOs and other providers. While Clinton has proposed spending $21 billion over five years, health industry officials and Senate Democrats have sought more -- "much more" in some cases. Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) called the $80 billion proposed by Senate Democrats "unrealistic," instead arguing that "$40-$50 (billion) is probably a number that feels comfortable." Republicans, however, want to spend even less. "Sen. Breaux continues to remind us that he is a Democrat, even if he does have some good ideas," House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said, noting that Breaux's estimate "is close to double what is likely to emerge" (Rovner, 9/13).