MEDICARE Rx: Sen. Baucus Introduces Medicaid-Funded Plan
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the second ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, introduced legislation Monday to help low-income seniors pay for prescription medication through the Medicaid program. Although the program would be administered through Medicaid, only seniors eligible for Medicare would receive the benefit. Baucus' plan proposes a sliding benefits scale, with 100% coverage and no cap for Medicare beneficiaries living at 100% or below the poverty level. For those living between 101% and 125% of poverty, Medicaid would pay 75% of drug costs; 50% for those in the 126-150 percentiles; and 25% for Medicare recipients living between 151% and 175% above poverty. Baucus said, "This legislation is not intended as a permanent solution to the prescription drug problem. Because it uses Medicaid, the legislation uses a delivery mechanism that can differ from state to state in the scope of benefits it provides. But it does provide a benefit to those who need it most." Baucus concluded, "It's not perfect, but a start (until comprehensive Medicare reform with a prescription drug benefit is passed)." Baucus indicated that he does not intend to try to "attach the plan to the Medicare 'giveback' bill," which is expected to come to the floor before the end of the year. Rather, Baucus plans to pursue the legislation, for which there are no costs estimates, early next year. The 'giveback' bill, however, could come to the House floor as early as this week, according to a spokesperson for Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX). Currently, House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-CA) and Commerce Chair Tom Bliley (R-VA) are working to reconcile their competing versions of the Medicare bill (Morrissey/Earle, CongressDaily/A.M., 11/2).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.