House v. Senate: Health Reform Bills’ Impact on Medicare

 The Medicare Rights Center has provided Medicare beneficiaries and health care advocates with valuable tools for assessing the health care bills that have emerged from the House and the Senate–most recently, a side-by-side comparison chart of the two bills. As I’ve written many times before, both bills fall short of bringing about serious, systemic health care reform. Nonetheless, there are significant differences, so it does matter what happens in the coming battle over a final conference bill.

Unsurprisingly, the House bill is better on just about every count–perhaps  because it wasn’t written to please Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson. When it comes to Medicare, the House bill is noticably stronger on changes to the Part D prescription drug program, and on assistance to low-income Medicare recipients. (The one caveat is that the Senate bill alone has income cielings for discounts, and I happen to agree that rich geezers can afford to pay more.)

I’ve included the material on the Medicare prescription drug program below, which shows that the House is far more willing to take on Big Pharma. It’s well worth taking a look at the Medicare Rights Center’s full chart here

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Senate Bill)

• Requires 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the doughnut hole, effective July 1, 2010. (The doughnut hole is the $3,600 gap in the drug benefit when consumers pay full price.) Discount does not apply to individuals with incomes above $85,000 and couples with incomes above $170,000 per year.

• Reduces coverage gap by $500 in 2010 only.

Affordable Health Care for America Act (House Bill)

• Requires 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the doughnut hole, effective July 1, 2010.

• Phases out doughnut hole completely by 2019 by shrinking the gap each year starting in 2010.

• Secures price concessions from drug manufacturers.

• Allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.

• Lifts the 36-month limit on coverage of drugs to prevent rejection of a kidney transplant.

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