Sen. Frist To ‘Modernize’ Medicare, Introduce More Competition
Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) plans to release an "initial blueprint" of a proposal for broad, long-term Medicare reform by the end of January, the New York Times reports. He said that the proposal would include increased competition among private health plans for Medicare beneficiaries. In addition, he said that the proposal would include the development of a new "health care infrastructure," which could include information and management systems to assess outcomes and allow physicians and patients to exchange information. Frist, who will assume a seat on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare issues, in the 108th Congress, said that Republicans should do more to reform Medicare than "simply" add a drug prescription benefit (Toner, New York Times, 11/27). In June, the House passed a Medicare reform bill that included a prescription drug benefit and "giveback" provisions for providers, but the Senate failed several times to pass similar legislation (California Healthline, 10/18). Frist said that next year he hopes to "pull together all the interested parties" to address Medicare reform and promote "big-vision thinking of where we want to be 10 years from now."
The Times reports that many Democrats oppose a reduction of the role of the federal government in Medicare. "If they're trying to reduce the federal government's risk, reduce the federal government's costs, and get seniors into private insurance through vouchers, that's a nonstarter for most Democrats and we'll fight that," according to Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare issues. In addition, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who will chair the Senate Finance Committee in the 108th Congress, and Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, also will "weigh in" on proposed Medicare reforms, the Times reports. Frist said, "Are we ready for really bold change now? I think we are" (New York Times, 11/27).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.