President Bush Urges Congress To Pass Medicare Rx Drug Benefit, Increase Funding for Medicare+Choice Plans
President Bush late last week urged Congress to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit and allocate more money to health plans that participate in the Medicare+Choice program, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. "Seniors often pay the highest prices for drugs out of their own pockets, forcing too many of our seniors to choose between paying for pills or paying their bills," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address (AP/Baltimore Sun, 5/19). Bush supports the House Republican Medicare reform package, which includes a 10-year, $350 billion prescription drug benefit plan. Under the plan, Medicare beneficiaries would pay $35 to $40 monthly premiums and a $250 annual deductible. Beneficiaries would receive coverage for 70% to 80% of the first $1,000 of their annual prescription drug costs and coverage for 50% of their annual costs between $1,000 and $2,250. Seniors would have to cover 100% of their annual prescription drug costs between $2,250 and $5,000; the proposed benefit would cover 100% of annual costs higher than $5,000. The benefit also would cover all drug costs for beneficiaries with annual incomes less than 135% of the federal poverty level, and seniors with annual incomes slightly higher than that would receive aid on a sliding scale. Bush opposes a $425 billion, five-year prescription drug benefit plan offered by Senate Democrats. Under that plan, beneficiaries would pay a $25 monthly premium with no annual deductible and would receive coverage for 50% of their annual prescription drug costs less than $4,000 and coverage for 100% of annual costs higher than $4,000 (California Healthline, 5/8).
On Friday, Bush urged Congress to increase payments to managed care plans participating in the Medicare+Choice program. "To be blunt about it, it seems like Medicare+Choice is getting slowly starved. And we've got to change that," Bush said (Washington Post, 5/18). The Republican-backed Medicare reform bill includes a provision under which Medicare+Choice plans would receive a one-year increase equivalent to the fee-for-service payment in the counties where the plans are offered. That boost would represent a 5% increase over the amount the plans received before the reimbursement system was separated from fee-for-service Medicare in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act (California Healthline, 5/2).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.