Senate Republicans May Enter Debate on Medicare Rx Drug Benefit
Senate Republicans -- who have been "noticeably absent" from congressional efforts to draft a Medicare prescription drug benefit -- are reportedly developing "principles" for such a proposal, CongressDaily reports. According to a Senate GOP aide, Senate Republicans are waiting for a bill being drafted by Sens. John Breaux (D-La.), James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) "to come up over the horizon." The bill would provide a voluntary benefit to all seniors, with subsidies available for those with low incomes, according to a Grassley spokesperson. The Republican aide said, "I think [Senate Republicans] will look very approvingly on that bill." The Grassley spokesperson said that Breaux, Jeffords and Grassley are waiting for Congressional Budget Office estimates of the cost of their plan before introducing it.
Meanwhile, some Republicans and Democrats are starting to consider "fallback positions" for a Medicare drug benefit "to try to keep their bills within reasonable budget limits," CongressDaily reports. Some lawmakers are advocating starting with benefits for low-income seniors, a position that President Bush supports. Others are advocating a "catastrophic benefit" to help only those seniors with "very high drug costs," and some support drafting a plan that would combine the two approaches. While combining those proposals would likely be the most "feasible financially," it would not help most seniors with their pharmaceutical costs, CongressDaily reports (Rovner, CongressDaily, 5/28).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.