Rx DRUG COSTS: Senate Rejects Democrats’ Plan
One day after Republicans pushed their prescription drug plan through the House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Democrats used a parliamentary maneuver to bring their own plan to a floor vote, the AP/Boston Globe reports. But the plan was shut down by Senate Republicans in a 53-44 party line vote. Senate Republicans criticized Democrats' for "political maneuvering" and said they were "more interested in scoring political points than in passing legislation." Sen. William Roth (R-Del.), chair of the Finance Committee, which is working on a bipartisan drug plan of its own, said, "I say this matter is too important, too important, too important to our senior citizens to rush it through as a political issue instead of working together" (Espo, 6/23). Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) joined in the bashing, saying, "Nobody knows what [the Democrats' plan] costs, how it works, what it does to the solvency of Medicare. This is politics at its worst. ... I don't think voters will be impressed by circumventing the process." But Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) accused Senate Republicans of "stalling on a bipartisan plan." He said, "When Medicare was passed, there was a fundamental commitment by the government to senior citizens. Every day we fail to pass a prescription drug program, we are violating that commitment" (Alvarez, New York Times, 6/23).
Sign of Things to Come?
House Republicans favor private insurers providing the benefit, with subsidies for low-income seniors and seniors with extremely high costs. The total cost of the House Republicans' plan would be $158 billion over 10 years. The Democrats' plan would provide a benefit through Medicare for all seniors, regardless of income. Seniors would pay a $250 yearly deductible, after which the government would pay part of drug expenses up to $4,000 and all expenses over that amount. Their plan would cost an estimated $240 billion over 10 years. While the Senate debate was brief, it "signaled poor prospects for bipartisan compromise on the issue." Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) added that the vote probably was "the only vote we'll have on prescription drugs in this session of the Senate" (Hook/Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 6/23). House GOP leaders want to bring their plan to the floor for a vote next week (Dewar, Washington Post, 6/23).