Senators Forge Compromise on Drug Benefit Plan

Possibly resolving one of the most contentious issues before Congress, key senators have announced a compromise drug benefit plan that would cover all Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of whether they join private health care plans, according to an article in the Washington Post.

The plan specifically rejects President Bush''s proposal to give better drug benefits to Medicare patients who join private health plans as a way to privatize the Medicare program.

Under the $400 billion compromise plan, the government would pay half the cost of drugs, up to $3,450 a year, with patients paying a $35 monthly premium and a $275 annual deductible. After the $3,450 limit is reached, patients would not receive any further help until their out-of-pocket spending on drugs reached $3,700, after which the government would pick up 90 percent of the cost. In addition, the plan would provide unspecified subsidies to low-income people on Medicare.

Medicare recipients who are in regular Medicare '“ the overwhelming majority -- would receive the coverage through stand-alone insurance policies. People who chose private health plans would get their coverage through them.

The plan was announced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and the committee''s senior Democrat, Max Baucus (Mont.). Both said details of the plan may change, but Sen. Baucus predicted that "a good number" of Democrats will support it.

However, other Democrats have indicated they will press for more generous drug coverage. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said the plan announced by Grassley and Baucus "falls significantly short," but he has said Democrats do not intend to block the legislation through a filibuster.

For the article in the Washington Post, go to: (Article may be only temporarily available.)