Senate and House Democrats are crafting new Medicare bills to undo what they deem "objectionable" provisions in the Medicare reform legislation signed by President Bush on Monday.
The Defense of Medicare and Real Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Act, introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Tuesday, repeals the premium support demonstration whereby health plans will compete head-to-head with traditional Medicare.
It also repeals the Medicare spending cap provision that requires legislation to control Medicare spending if it exceeds certain limitations.
The measure calls for payment of private plans at an amount equivalent to average Medicare costs instead of 109% of Medicare costs as provided under the new reforms. This provision would be phased in over five years.
Kennedy's proposal, which will be introduced as a companion in the House by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) when Congress reconvenes in January, also aims to eliminate the drug coverage gap or "doughnut hole." In addition, it gets rid of assets tests and allows Medicaid wrap-around for people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.
Two other provisions reduce prescription drug prices by allowing re-importation of drugs from Canada and direct negotiating of prices between the federal government and drug companies. The measure also repeals health savings accounts.
Kennedy calls the legislation signed by Bush a "sweetheart deal" for insurance companies and a "bonanza" for pharmaceutical companies.
"Our legislation will nullify these destructive policies," Kennedy says in a written statement. "Its goal is to help seniors, not turn them over to tender mercies of HMOs."
Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) is backing another bill that counters the new Medicare reforms, called the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act of 2003.
In a statement on the Senate floor Tuesday, Daschle says his bill, which also has a House companion, "would give Medicare the authority to negotiate with drug companies to obtain the lowest possible prices for seniors and people with disabilities."