Democrats got the word out about their Medicare prescription-drug plans, while House Republicans began making final changes to their proposal before its long-awaited introduction.
Republican leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee is working to introduce their Medicare modernization and prescription-drug bill tomorrow or early next week, and committee staffers have been told to plan on marking up the bill June 18.
The Energy and Commerce Committee might introduce a separate bill. A rift has emerged between the two House committees over whether to increase premiums in the Medicare managed-care program and implement competitive bidding for durable medical equipment and some drugs, according to a congressional aide who requested anonymity.
The House Democrats' prescription-drug plan, unveiled today, has an estimated price tag of at least $700 billion over 10 years, a staff member said. The Republican plan, details of which were disclosed in May, is projected to cost $350 billion over 10 years. And a plan introduced by Senate Democrats yesterday is expected to cost $425 billion over eight years, according Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), one of its sponsors.
The Republican bill is expected to contain changes to Medicare provider payments, including provisions that will increase hospital payments by $9 billion over 10 years. Neither Democratic plan would revise provider payments so far, but a House Democratic staffer said that is likely to change.
Both Democratic plans would eliminate the payment gap, called a "doughnut," contained in the Republican proposal. The Republican plan is expected to offer partial payment on drugs up to a $2,000 annual cap on individual spending. Between out-of-pocket costs of $2,000 and $5,000, when catastrophic coverage kicks in, beneficiaries would pay the full cost of their drugs.
"Under our bill, every beneficiary who chooses to participate in the drug benefit will be guaranteed that Medicare will pay something for every single one of their prescriptions," said Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) during a rally today.