New Medicare bill unveiled
* Five senators plan to unveil a new Medicare reform bill, including a voluntary prescription-drug program. As first reported on Modern Healthcare's Web site last week, the tripartisan 21st Century Medicare Act will be introduced by Sens. John Breaux (D-La.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) once the Congressional Budget Office releases a cost estimate, Senate aides said. They estimate the act's total cost will be less than $370 billion over 10 years. The voluntary prescription-drug plan is expected to consume from $300 billion to $330 billion over 10 years. According to a draft of the bill, the benefit would have a $35 monthly premium, an annual $250 deductible and an out-of-pocket spending cap of $3,700, after which the government would pay 90% of costs. It would cover 50% of costs up to between $2,000 and $2,500.
Scully fights back
* In an exclusive interview with Modern Healthcare's Daily Dose, Thomas Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, defended himself and his agency against allegations of being too soft on segments of the healthcare industry. Specifically, Scully said he was unaware of any policy change in his office regarding drugmakers accused of cheating Medicaid of rebates. There has been talk that the CMS intends to resolve such cases administratively rather than in court, where potential penalties are higher, but a CMS spokesman said it is the state's responsibility, not the agency's, to oversee such cases. In addition, Scully reiterated earlier denials that he has hindered the U.S. Department of Justice's ongoing probe of for-profit hospital giant HCA and attempted to weaken the False Claims Act. Scully has been a recent target of criticism from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who helped modernize the act.