White House Indicates It Will Compromise on Amount of Money for Medicare Rx Drug Program
Members of the Bush administration yesterday indicated that the White House is willing to compromise on the amount of money to spend in a Medicare prescription drug benefit, Congressional Quarterly reports. In its budget resolution (H Con Res 353), the House has included $350 billion over 10 years for a drug benefit, more than the $190 billion over 10 years that the White House has proposed (Goldreich, Congressional Quarterly, 4/18). The Senate budget resolution (S Con Res 353) would allocate $500 billion over 10 years for a Medicare drug benefit (AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/18). Speaking to the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said, "While we feel that we can provide this benefit for less than the $350 billion proposed by the House, let me make it clear that we are committed to the principle of a prescription drug benefit rather than to a specific figure." While Thompson spoke to the Ways and Means Committee, Mark McClellan, a White House health adviser, delivered the same message to the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee (Congressional Quarterly, 4/18).
Republicans and administration officials agreed at the hearings that enacting a drug benefit would not make sense unless the Medicare program is modernized. Thompson said, "It's clear that if we add a drug benefit without comprehensive modernization of the system, we will only deepen the financial crisis Medicare faces in coming years" (AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/18). However, Democrats have said that the spending required for such an overhaul is "inconsistent" with Republicans' effort to pass laws making Bush's $1.3 trillion, 10-year tax cut package permanent (Congressional Quarterly, 4/18). House leaders said they hope to advance legislation that would reform Medicare, including a drug benefit, by May 24 (AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/18).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.