MEDICARE Rx: HIAA Unveils Coverage Proposal for Seniors
The Health Insurance Association of America released yesterday a proposal to provide drug coverage for 37.5 million elderly Medicare beneficiaries, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. The centerpiece of the plan, aimed at covering 23 million beneficiaries, is a "nonrefundable tax credit of up to $1,000 for individuals and $1,500 for couples to help pay for prescription drugs." The credit would be available to those beneficiaries who have paid $500 out of pocket for prescription drugs and have incomes higher than 200% of poverty for individuals, or 250% of poverty for couples. For low-income recipients, the plan calls for block grants to the states "to create or expand existing programs to help pay for prescriptions." This would cover approximately 12.5 million beneficiaries. The total cost of the program would be $19.2 billion per year (Rovner, 9/22).
House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-CA) will hold a hearing today that is expected to focus on the need to reform the structure and financing of Medicare in order to maintain its long term solvency, ensure access to benefits and expand choice of health plans. Scheduled to testify are Congressional Budget Office Director Dan Crippen, William Scanlon of the General Accounting Office, former Medicare Commission member Gail Wilensky and others. "Structural reform of Medicare is the best way to ensure that seniors get the added health benefits they need such as prescription drug coverage, while also guaranteeing Medicare will meet the health care needs for the nation's retiring 77 million baby boomers," Thomas said (release, 9/21).
In Other Medicare News
A bipartisan group of senators will unveil a proposal today to increase access to preventive services under Medicare. The Medicare Wellness Act, sponsored by Sens. Bob Graham (D-FL), Richard Bryan (D-NV), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), James Jeffords (R-VT) and John Chafee (R-RI) would add screening for glaucoma, hypertension, vision and hearing loss and cholesterol to the preventive services covered by Medicare. In addition, the bill would provide counseling for tobacco cessation, osteoporosis and hormone replacement therapy. The legislation would also create a Healthy Seniors Promotion program to study the use of preventive services by the elderly (CongressDaily/A.M., 9/22).