Bush lays out Medicare reform, omits details

Sunday, March 9, 2003

March 10, 2003

WASHINGTON - The White House unveiled its plan last week to overhaul Medicare, saying it would offer comprehensive coverage of prescription drugs and preventive services to people who join private insurance plans, The New York Times reported.

The Bush administration backed away from its idea to offer no drug benefits to elderly people in the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program. But drug benefits available through private plans would be far more extensive, so Medicare recipients would have strong incentives to join private plans.

More than 85% of the 40 million Medicare beneficiaries are in the original fee-for-service program, which gives people a free choice of doctors but offers little coverage of prescription drugs outside hospitals.

Administration officials said the proposed new drug benefits could be available on Jan. 1, 2006, if Congress passed legislation this year.

Bush's plan, however, provided no accompanying legislation and it is expected that the Administration will leave it up to Congress to flesh out the details.

“ The principles do not set out the President’s plans for homecare, and this is probably beneficial," said AAHomecare CEO Tom Connaughton. "There will be attempts to enact competitive bidding, market basket reductions, and perhaps copays. These will be difficult battles for us even without our opponents pointing to a Presidential program calling for such things.”