Wall Street Journal Examines Bush Administration’s Medicare Reform Plans
The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 23 examines the Bush administration's efforts to reform Medicare by limiting costs and creating a prescription drug benefit. Although all proposals are preliminary, one reform idea that is "getting a lot of attention" is a so-called "three-option plan," which would retain Medicare's fee-for-service and managed care programs while adding a higher-cost, greater-benefit program. Under this new option, which would include coverage for preventive care and catastrophic costs, health plans would compete for beneficiaries, and market forces theoretically would drive down the cost of care. Also, Republicans close to the Bush administration say the White House is considering offering a "sweeter drug benefit" through the new option while creating a limited drug benefit for low-income beneficiaries enrolled in fee-for-service Medicare, the Journal reports. However, specific details of potential reforms, which are "fraught with substantive and political challenges," are not likely to come quickly, according to the Journal. Although the Bush administration hopes to release a broad outline of its Medicare reform plan by the State of the Union address in January, implementation of such changes could take years, and the White House is considering some proposals to provide more immediate prescription drug relief, including drug discount card programs and grants to states to help seniors buy medications (Lueck et al., Wall Street Journal, 12/23).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.