Senate, House Democrats Increase Efforts To Revise New Medicare Law
Senate and House Democrats, "emboldened by a less-than-enthusiastic reception from their constituents," have increased their efforts to revise the new Medicare law (HR 1) and "reclaim the issue they have owned for decades," CongressDaily reports. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in a speech to Families USA scheduled for Thursday plans to call for legislation that would repeal several provisions in the law. Kennedy hopes to repeal the "$12 billion slush fund" for private health plans that participate in Medicare and the competition pilot program, scheduled to begin in 2010, which he said "supports insurance industry profits and severely undermines Medicare." Kennedy also plans to seek federal limits on direct-to-consumer advertisements for prescription drugs and other pharmaceutical industry promotional practices. He also supports a bill introduced by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) that would repeal a provision in the Medicare law under which the federal government cannot negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on their products. In addition, Kennedy plans to call for the legalization of programs to reimport less-expensive, U.S.-manufactured prescription drugs from Canada and the European Union. Kennedy hopes to "lift the shroud of deception from the Republican Medicare law, expose it for the fraud it is and fix it," according to a draft of the speech.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) plans to introduce a bill that would repeal a provision in the Medicare law under which the program must establish an "asset test" for low-income beneficiaries and would exempt Michigan from the competition pilot program. In the House, Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced legislation that would allow HHS to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on their products; establish a standard Medicare drug benefit option; eliminate the competition pilot program; reduce reimbursements for Medicare providers; and eliminate a provision in the Medicare law that would require Congress to consider proposals to reduce Medicare expenditures or raise revenues in the event that general revenue accounts for 45% of expenditures. Meanwhile, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) on Wednesday asked the Congressional Budget Office to release a new estimate on the number of Medicare beneficiaries with employer-sponsored retiree prescription drug coverage who could lose their coverage as a result of the Medicare law (Rovner/Heil, CongressDaily, 1/22).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.