MEDICARE Rx: House GOP Decide on a Plan
In what could be a "milestone on the road to such coverage," House Republicans have agreed on a plan that would provide prescription drug coverage for seniors by using private insurance subsidized by the government, the New York Times reports. The agreement comes just before Congress' spring recess, during which Democrats plan to promote the drug benefit in political events nationwide. The Republicans' plan would allow private insurers to offer seniors a variety of competing drug plans, allowing seniors to pick and choose based on their income. In contrast to President Clinton's plan, Republicans said their proposal "would provide more definite protection to people with high drug expenses; less insurance for routine, ordinary drug expenses and less of a subsidy to affluent Medicare beneficiaries." Clinton's plan calls for the government to directly subsidize premiums for all seniors who signed up for the benefit, but Republicans are offering an indirect subsidy, where the government might cover up to 80% of costs for 5% of beneficiaries who have the highest expenses. Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said that the plan would give insurers a financial incentive to control use of prescription drugs and would allow them to charge lower premiums for everyone else. The Republican plan also would provide financial assistance to low-income beneficiaries, possibly covering premiums and other expenses for those whose incomes are above 35%-50% of the federal poverty level. Republicans also would create a new entity, called the Medicare board, to administer the drug program and maybe supervise the HMOs which provide care for some Medicare beneficiaries (Pear, 4/12). Republicans are expected to announce more specific details of the plan today (Eilperin, Washington Post, 4/12).
More Medicare Reform
The plan also is expected to include other Medicare reforms, although these are "far less ambitious than those devised last year by the failed bipartisan Medicare commission." One of those modernizations could be a new way to pay private managed care companies participating in Medicare (Rovner/Fulton, CongressDaily/A.M., 4/12).