Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., says the Senate Republican majority will draft its own Medicare reform plan that probably will be different from President Bush's plan.
The Bush plan has not yet been released, but reportedly it would give Medicare beneficiaries the choice of remaining in the traditional fee-for-service program, enrolling in regional HMOs that offer prescription drug coverage or enrolling in private health plans with "enhanced fee-for-service benefits" that include prescription drug coverage.
"As a separate branch of the government with a lot of expertise on this issue, we're going to write legislation that probably will be an original work," says Paul Jacobson, Frist's deputy president secretary.
He referred to Frist's remarks at an AARP meeting on Thursday. According to news reports, Frist said a Senate Medicare reform plan should offer a prescription drug benefit "in a fiscally responsible way" and that the benefit should be "available to all seniors."
He added that the Senate plan would not add the drug benefit directly to Medicare without also addressing the program more broadly, the reports say.
Earlier this week, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) criticized the Bush plan in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.
In a related matter, Senate Republicans on Wednesday put caps on non-economic damages in malpractice lawsuits and the Medicare prescription drug plan on top of their list of priorities for this year.
Other issues on the Senate GOP list are President Bush's economic package, education and energy bills, repeal of the estate tax, and expanding the production and availability of vaccines against biological threats.