House approves Medicare Rx 2000 Act

September 1, 2000

Pharmaceutical Representative

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would provide prescription drug coverage under Medicare to seniors and the disabled. The bipartisan proposal calls for a public-private partnership to let senior citizens choose between competing plans for coverage that they feel best meets their needs.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would provide prescription drug coverage under Medicare to seniors and the disabled. The bipartisan proposal calls for a public-private partnership to let senior citizens choose between competing plans for coverage that they feel best meets their needs.

"Our plan is voluntary, affordable and available to all," said bill sponsor Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA) when the bill was unveiled. "Those who need coverage will know that a limit is placed on out-of-pocket expenses so that they will not be forced to choose between lifesaving drugs or putting food on the table."

Thomas also said that the bill would give seniors and the disabled at least two private-sector health plans to choose from.

The proposal, which is expected to cost $40 billion over five years, will be paid for through savings brought about through Medicare reforms.

"Our prescription drug plan will be paid for with savings from eliminating the misuses of Medicare," Thomas said. "In the past four years, the Republican Congress has taken extraordinary steps to combat waste and abuse in order to save money and make Medicare more efficient for seniors and the disabled. Thanks to these efforts, in 1999 alone, over $12 billion was saved."

Proposal praised

The insurance industry is praising the proposal as an important part of improving Medicare.

"America's seniors and individuals with disabilities deserve a Medicare program that provides a choice of high-quality health plans providing comprehensive benefits - including prescription drugs - at an affordable price," said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of the American Association of Health Plans. "By approving a prescription drug benefit option, the U.S. House of Representatives has taken an important step forward to build on the promise made to beneficiaries at the program's inception in 1965. This debate now moves to the Senate, and we encourage a thorough examination of the proposals under consideration."

A spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Washington, said the organization was "encouraged" by the Rx 2000 Act, but that the bill still failed to provide a comprehensive overhaul of Medicare, which PhRMA advocates. PR

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