Skip to comments.House Republicans ready legislation for full drug subsidies for low-income elderly
Posted on 04/30/2002 6:14:21 PM PDT by RCW2001
(04-30) 17:30 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) --
House Republicans are drafting election-year Medicare prescription drug legislation to include a full federal subsidy for the low-income elderly as well as protection against catastrophic costs for all seniors, officials said Tuesday.
The legislation envisions a voluntary system of insurance in which older Americans would receive coverage from private companies in a market overseen by Medicare, the officials said. The bill carries a 10-year price tag of $350 billion.
The measure also will incorporate President Bush's proposal for government-issued prescription drug discount cards designed to reduce the cost of medicine for Medicare beneficiaries. Officials who disclosed the details spoke on condition of anonymity.
GOP leaders hope to have the measure on the House floor by Memorial Day, part of an effort to blunt anticipated campaign-season attacks from Democrats. Polls taken for both political parties in recent months show that older people, expected to be an important portion of the electorate this fall, favor Democrats over Republicans by double-digit margins for their handling of the prescription drug issue.
The $350 billion that House Republicans have set aside over the next decade for prescription drug coverage contrasts with the $190 billion that President Bush proposed, and is well in excess of the $160 billion earmarked for a prescription drug bill that the GOP pushed through the House two years ago. The result is a more robust federal benefit than Republicans endorsed in 2000.
Several sources said outlines of the legislation were discussed Tuesday at a private meeting of party leaders in the House. They stressed the final details remain to be worked out, and costs could vary.
For all but low income people, officials said seniors would pay a monthly premium, likely in the range of $37 a month. Additionally, they would pay a deductible, possibly the first $250 of drug costs annually. After that, the federal government would pick up approximately 75 or 80 percent of the cost of drugs up to $1,000, and perhaps 50 percent of the next $1,000 in costs.
Over $2,000, individuals could be required to pay the full cost of additional drugs out of pocket, to an amount to be determined, likely $5,000. After that, insurance would pay the rest.
Older people with incomes up to 135 percent of the poverty level would have all their costs paid, with partial subsidies for seniors with incomes of up to 150 percent.
While details of the bill remained to be worked out, Republicans have long conceded a political concern.
And Democrats were quick to criticize them. "Unfortunately, for that amount of money you can't cover the people who need to be covered," said House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. He called it the same "warmed over stuff we've seen before." Many Democrats generally favor a uniform prescription drug benefit to be administered through Medicare.
GOP candidates, attacked ferociously two years ago on prescription drugs, countered that the House had passed legislation to address the problem. Even though the measure died in the GOP-controlled Senate, party strategists concluded that response helped Republicans hold control of the House.
Democrats have made it clear they intend to launch similar attacks this year, and the GOP long ago concluded it would have a similar response. Expressions of support for prescription drug coverage in television commercials have "a positive impact on party and candidate confidence on this issue and health care in general," strategists told rank and file Republicans in a presentation last week.
While GOP leaders discussed the finer points of the legislation in private, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., arranged a public declaration Wednesday of a set of Republican prescription drug principles.
These include support for lower-cost drugs; a guarantee that all seniors would have prescription drug coverage; and improvements in the broader Medicare program that provides health care for more than 39 million Americans.
"A fair and responsible plan must strengthen Medicare by ensuring the program can deliver necessary health care services, including the addition of an affordable and voluntary prescription drug benefit under Medicare," according to material prepared for release.
©2002 Associated Press
More government growth and spending to buy votes.
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