Two Republican senators introduced a bill that would limit the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit to $395 billion over 10 years, the initial Congressional Budget Office estimate for 2004 to 2013. The latest CBO estimate pegs the benefit's 10-year cost at about $850 billion for a later period -- 2006, when the drug benefit takes effect, to 2015. The Bush administration has estimated the cost for the same period at $724 billion. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.), would establish annual spending caps and require that the benefit be reduced if its cost exceeded the annual limit.
Meanwhile, as expected, the Senate Budget Committee passed a 2006 budget resolution Thursday that would mandate $14 billion in Medicaid and Medicare cuts over five years. President Bush has proposed that the cuts come out of Medicaid, and lawmakers have pledged to stay close to his plan. The full Senate is expected to debate the budget resolution next week. -- by Tony Fong and Ralph Loos