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Democrats Begin Effort to Revise New Medicare Law

  • January 23rd, 2004

Encouraged by their constituents' less-than-enthusiastic response to the new Medicare legislation, Congressional Democrats are stepping up efforts to revise it in the next session.

Democrats have assailed the bill as a threat to Medicare and a giveaway to the drug companies and HMOs. "This is a continuation of this administration and this Republican Party selling out government to special interests," said Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) when the bill was passed.

In new legislation, the Democrats hope to decrease the role of private health plans in Medicare, enhance the prescription drug benefit and eliminate a provision in the current law that forbids the federal government from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices.

In a speech to Families USA Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) called for legislation that would repeal several provisions in the law. Kennedy said he hopes to "lift the shroud of deception from the Republican Medicare law, expose it for the fraud it is and fix it." (Click here for entire speech.)

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) plans to introduce a bill that would repeal a provision in the Medicare law that requires low-income beneficiaries to meet an "asset test." Stabenow's bill also would exempt Michigan from participating in a pilot program to require direct competition between private health plans and the traditional government-run Medicare program.

In the House, Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) has introduced legislation that would allow HHS to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on their products; eliminate the competition pilot program; establish a standard Medicare drug benefit option; and eliminate a provision in the law that would require Congress to make possibly drastic cutbacks in the program if general revenues fall.

Meanwhile, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to make a new estimate of the number of retirees who could lose their prescription drug coverage as a result of the Medicare law. Before the law was passed, the CBO estimated that 3.8 million retirees could lose their coverage.

For more on the Medicare law, click here.

To read Sen. Kennedy's speech, in which he announces his intention to introduce new legislation, the Health Security and Affordability Act, which would create a national health care program, click here.

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Judith Mitnick

Needham Mitnick & Pollack, PLC
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Last Modified: 01/23/2004

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