Thompson Discusses Medicare Reforms At Fla. Nursing Home
During a visit to a Florida nursing home yesterday, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson told seniors that Medicare needs to undergo a "thorough review," as well as a "complete overhaul," and that the Bush administration plans to do both, the Miami Herald reports (Rudavsky, Miami Herald, 3/9). When asked by Myra Smith, a 95-year old resident of the facility, why prescription drugs are more expensive in the United States than they are in Mexico or Canada, Thompson replied, "That I can't answer. But it's being looked into" (McVicar, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 3/9). Thompson, however, "got plenty of applause" when he told residents that seniors "should not be put in the position of having to choose whether they're going to purchase prescription drugs, food or heat" (Miami Herald, 3/9). "Today, no one would purchase health care coverage without prescription drugs, and we shouldn't expect our seniors to accept a health care plan without access to prescription drugs," he added (HHS release, 3/8).
Thompson said, however, that Congress has been "cool" to Bush's prescription drug plan, which would would give states $48 billion in block grants over four years to assist low-income seniors with prescription drug costs, while the Bush administration revamps Medicare. The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports that in a later interview Thompson said, "Congress wants to pass (a prescription drug plan) and take credit for it." Thompson said that while providing low-cost prescription drugs to seniors is a "high priority," revamping Medicare is also at the top of his list. He said that he would like to see the Medicare program styled after the federal employees insurance system, because it would give seniors more options, such as access to affordable prescription drugs.
But he warned that Congress, in its haste to pass prescription drug legislation, might "forget any other Medicare reforms." He said, "We are opposed to that because we feel we have the opportunity finally to do something innovative and dramatic in Medicare" (McVicar, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 3/9). Thompson said that he will reveal details of his strategies on these and other issues over the next six to eight weeks. "My biggest surprise is how complex the federal government is. Being governor, you could do things much more quickly. ... I'm not prone to being patient," he said (Miami Herald, 3/9).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.