Senate Democrats to Offer 10-Year, $500B Proposal to Reduce Number of Uninsured, Reform Medicare
Senate Democrats outlined a fiscal year 2003 budget proposal yesterday that would allocate $500 billion over 10 years for reducing the number of uninsured, reforming Medicare and creating a prescription drug benefit for the program, CongressDaily/AM reports (Caruso, CongressDaily/AM, 3/20). Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said the complete details of the $2.1 trillion proposal -- the Democrats' "main counterproposal to those developed" by President Bush and House Republicans -- would be unveiled when the committee meets today (Stevenson, New York Times, 3/20). Conrad said that the $500 billion would be included in a reserve fund to cover a drug benefit, an additional round of "givebacks" to providers and up to $95 million to expand health insurance coverage (CongressDaily/AM, 3/20). Last week, the House Budget Committee approved its own $2.1 trillion budget proposal calling for $350 billion over 10 years for Medicare reform and a senior drug benefit. That figure is $160 billion more than President Bush has proposed (California Healthline, 3/14).
Conrad said that his budget plan would fully meet what Bush is seeking for defense spending while reducing the national debt further than the administration's plan. He said the Democrats' proposal would also provide more funding for domestic programs "while rejecting the president's call for new tax cuts over the next decade," the New York Times reports. Like both the Republican proposal and Bush's plan, the Democratic plan would create a deficit next year in the range of $100 billion. Conrad also said the Democratic plan would require the federal government to stop dipping into the Social Security surplus by 2008, whereas the Republican plan would use the surplus for at least 10 years. But Republicans said the Democratic plan would lead to more taxes and spending. "When it comes to fiscal discipline, Democrats have no credibility," House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) said (New York Times, 3/20). The congressional budget resolution is a nonbinding tool used to guide spending priorities when lawmakers later write appropriation bills. Because of the Democrats' narrow majority in the Senate, the Wall Street Journal reports that "they might not even be able to pass their own resolution, and they almost certainly won't reach an agreement with the Republican House" (Wall Street Journal, 3/20).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.