CHN: Medicare Conference Continues Through Senate Recess

Over the last few weeks, conferees for the Medicare prescription drug legislation have been meeting to work out major differences between the House and Senate proposals. This past week conference negotiations focused on low-income beneficiaries, or “dual eligibles.” Dual eligibles are people old enough to qualify for Medicare but whose income level also qualify them for Medicaid. The Senate bill forces dual eligibles to receive their prescription drug coverage under Medicaid, a position supported by the White House because it transfers some of the cost (estimated at $47 billion) from the federal government to states. The House bill does not include such a requirement and treats that population as Medicare beneficiaries as has been done since the beginning of the program in 1965.
Conference Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) was cautious in talking about what had been agreed to thus far saying, “We’ve discussed.and we’ve come to some tentative conclusions, but the tentative conclusions are not something I wish to talk about because they’re tentative. Everything is tentative until everything is final.” Negotiations will continue at least until October 17 – the Republican leadership’s self-imposed deadline to produce a conference report approaches.

For more information on dual eligibles in the Medicare debate, see the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study, ‘Senate Prescription Drug Bill Would Exclude Millions of Low-income Beneficiaries’

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