Medicare reform negotiators and congressional leaders said they hope an agreement can be reached on a prescription drug and Medicare reform bill by the weekend, and to facilitate matters Republicans are reported to have dropped a demand that direct competition with private health plans become a permanent feature of Medicare. Instead, they have proposed a three-year temporary program that would take effect in only parts of the country. In addition, Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) confirmed today that the House-Senate conference committee has neared an agreement to place an 18-month moratorium on construction of new specialty hospital facilities as part of the bill. Breaux provided no additional details. Despite the flurry of activity, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told reporters yesterday that the chances of Congress passing a Medicare bill this year are "less than 50-50" because the discussion has shifted from prescription drugs to a "debate about saving Medicare as we know it." -- by Jeff Tieman with Associated Press
Medicare reform debate may yield bill by weekend
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