Rx DRUG COSTS: Thomas Touts His Medicare Drug Benefit Bill
Arguing that "[n]o one would design a seniors' health program today that did not incorporate prescription drugs," Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) touts Rx 2000, the House-passed bill he sponsored that would "fully integrate prescriptions into Medicare" for the first time. Writing Tuesday in the Bakersfield Californian, Thomas indicates that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Rx 2000 will reduce prescription costs by an average of 25% -- "double the discount CBO estimates for the Clinton-Gore proposal." The bill "achieves these significant discounts by giving private insurance plans flexibility to aggressively negotiate with manufacturers and by requiring competition between at least two plans," Thomas notes, adding, that the "bipartisan plan empowers seniors to choose the plan that best suits their needs." Thomas asserts that "Rx 2000 provides a guaranteed drug benefit for all." The standard benefit, he says, would cover half of a beneficiary's cost up to $2,350 after a $250 deductible, and 100% after a beneficiary spends $6,000 -- all for about $39 in monthly premiums. The plan also would cover all costs for low-income individuals, who account for nearly one-quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries. In addition, Thomas asserts that the measure "also brings important modernizations to Medicare," as it creates an agency within HHS to oversee Medicare+Choice as well as prescription drug plans. Also, Thomas notes that "Rx 2000 creates the first national patient advocate for Medicare beneficiaries, and a bill of rights to expedite the present 500-day delay in benefit denial appeals." Further, the bill provides assistance to retain and attract Medicare HMOs in "rural and low-payment areas," Thomas says. Challenging President Clinton to "make prescription drug coverage for seniors the law this year," Thomas concludes: "He can choose to demagogue the bipartisan bill that has already passed the House and has significant bipartisan support in the Senate, or he can choose to enhance his legacy by making his last year in office productive by working with members of parties in the House and Senate to enact this legislation this year. Let's hope he chooses policy over politics and legacy over legislative logjams" (7/18).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.