Rx DRUG BENEFIT: Roth’s Revisions Get Lukewarm Response
Despite Senate Finance Chairman William Roth's (R-Del.) claims that his revised proposal to overhaul Medicare and add prescription drug coverage is making progress and receiving a "favorable reaction," the plan was met with a "marked lack of enthusiasm" from both parties after he presented it Thursday at a closed door committee member meeting, CongressDaily reports. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that "there's still a long way to go. The benefit package is still pretty skimpy, and there's still a lot of blank spots to be filled in." The largest change in the new plan would establish a government-run "fallback" plan if private options proved fruitless. Roth also added a temporary, four-year plan to fund states for the coverage of prescription drugs for low-income seniors and those with "catastrophic" medication costs. This aspect of the plan would operate similar to state CHIP programs, in which states are given federal money and flexibility to design their own coverage packages. Perhaps not surprisingly, the state-based plan's support was divided along party lines as Republicans have been promoting the idea for much of the Congressional session. Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) whose co-sponsored bill with Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) influenced many of Roth's revisions, called the state-based, low-income plan a "CYA proposal." Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) protested the option, saying, "State programs just don't meet the needs and the proposal trivializes the importance of prescription medications." All proposals now proceed to the CBO for scoring next month, and the panel anticipates another meeting immediately after recess (Rovner, 7/27).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.