Senate Finance Committee leaders said they reached a "landmark" bipartisan agreement to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Under the proposed framework, to be debated in the committee next week, seniors would receive the benefit whether they stayed in traditional Medicare or opted into a private managed-care plan. Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said provisions to increase reimbursement for rural hospitals would be included in the proposal and "paid for out of other program changes and not out of the budget reserve of $400 billion" set aside in the 2004 budget for Medicare reform. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release next week an estimated cost of the drug benefit. Some lawmakers said the plan represents the first step in privatizing Medicare because managed-care plans would be partially responsible for administering the benefit. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist voiced support for the plan. -- by Jeff Tieman
Key lawmakers reach agreement on drug benefit
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