Wall Street Journal Examines Bush’s Likely Fiscal Year 2003 Health Priorities
Although President Bush plans to increase spending on homeland defense and economic recovery in fiscal year 2003, his budget will likely include "significant cuts" in some domestic programs, including health care -- the "touchiest domestic issue" for the administration, the Wall Street Journal reports. While Bush has "blessed" the CDC and vaccine manufacturers as "top priorities for the new national imperative of homeland defense," hospital lobbyists fear that the budget will extend reduced Medicare reimbursement rates to "make way for other programs." Social services groups also said that the Bush administration may close federal offices on women's health. However, Bush will likely "revive" a pharmacy discount card plan for Medicare beneficiaries -- a program that would not impact the budget "until 2004 or beyond" -- that he proposed last July. In addition, some analysts have "raised speculation" that Bush may reach an agreement with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on patients' rights legislation, "another popular item with no direct budget impact."
Drug industry lobbyists also have urged the Bush administration to propose a "market-based" prescription drug benefit for seniors, in part to "blunt Democrats' drive for government-provided benefits through Medicare," which the industry fears would lead to price controls on prescription drugs. The Journal reports that Bush will likely propose a $158 billion to $200 billion plan to reform Medicare and add a prescription drug benefit to the program. The Journal also reports that a debate over how to help unemployed workers purchase health insurance, the "ultimate stumbling block" in failed negotiations over an economic stimulus bill in December, will likely return. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has encouraged states to "seek more flexibility in how they use existing funds" in their Medicaid and CHIP programs to cover more unemployed workers without health insurance. The budget blueprint is expected to be released by Feb. 4 (Cummings/McKinnon, Wall Street Journal, 1/10).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.