Republican Conferees To Discuss Stall in Medicare Negotiations
Republican members of the conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate Medicare bills (HR 1 and S 1) tentatively have scheduled a Thursday afternoon meeting to discuss stalled negotiations, CongressDaily/AM reports. Negotiations were halted last week because of an "ongoing spat" between Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) (CongressDaily/AM, 9/3). Grassley said that he withdrew his staff because he wants negotiators to begin talks on provisions in both Medicare bills that would allocate at least $25 billion to increase payments to rural Medicare providers. Grassley said that aides to Thomas, who as head of the conference committee sets the conference committee's agenda, told Senate staffers they are not permitted to discuss such payments. Grassley has indicated that he believes Thomas is stalling on such provisions as a way to gain leverage in the Medicare negotiations (California Healthline, 9/2). In the meantime, no staff-level meetings to discuss reconciling the two bills have been scheduled, and a full conference committee meeting that was expected later this week has not yet been scheduled. A House Ways and Means Committee spokesperson said that negotiators have come to agreement on as much as one-third of a final bill, including much of the language for a drug discount card, a series of changes to provider appeals and other regulatory reforms (Rovner, CongressDaily, 9/2).
USA Today examines the "cool reaction" by seniors to the House and Senate Medicare prescription drug benefit proposals. Medicare beneficiaries "appear skeptical" that Medicare would be able to effectively deliver a prescription drug benefit through private health plans, USA Today reports. According to a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of 1,009 adults, 76% of participants said they believe the Medicare reform proposals would not do enough to help seniors pay for prescription drugs, compared with 15% who said the reform proposals would do enough to help seniors. Further, out of 188 seniors surveyed, 43% said that the proposed Medicare changes would have no effect on their current situation, compared with 27% who said the proposals would make their situations worse and 26% who said the bills would improve their situations (Welch, USA Today, 9/3).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.