Senate Democrats Having Trouble Reaching Consensus on Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
Although Senate Democrats are united in wanting to approve a Medicare prescription drug benefit this year, they are having trouble reaching "common ground" on what a bill should look like, CongressDaily/AM reports. So far all they have agreed on is that the House Republican Medicare drug proposal is "insufficient" and that rising drug prices must also be addressed (see related story). The "starting point" for discussion among Senate Democrats appears to be a bill proposed by Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Zell Miller (D-Ga.) (Fulton/Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 5/8). The measure would require Medicare beneficiaries to pay a $25 monthly premium with no annual deductible. Seniors would receive coverage for 50% of their annual prescription drug costs less than $4,000 and coverage for 100% of annual costs more than $4,000. The plan would cost about $425 billion between 2004 and 2010, when the legislation would expire (California Healthline, 5/2). Some Democrats believe the bill is not generous enough and would not help enough seniors with their drug costs. A group of Senate Democrats has been meeting over the past few weeks in an attempt to develop a consensus proposal. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said that discussions have focused on incrementally increasing the government's share of drug costs from 50% to as much as 80% over the eight years the plan would be in effect. Despite the lack of a consensus, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) "insisted" yesterday that the Senate would address Medicare prescription drug legislation by this summer (CongressDaily/AM, 5/8).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.