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December 11, 2003 | Daily News

After two legal defeats, the Bush administration has rolled out its latest discount card plan to immediately lower Medicare beneficiaries drug costs -- this time with the legal authority a federal court twice said it lacked.

December 09, 2003 | Daily News

The Medicare bill's generous payment incentives for new regional preferred provider organizations (PPOs) will likely allow them to draw enrollees away from locally based HMOs, putting such pressure on these private plans that they may not be a viable alternative by the time a controversial 2010 demonstration program makes them compete head-to-head with fee-for-service Medicare, according to lawmakers and experts familiar with the industry.

December 08, 2003 | Daily News

The American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) and allied stakeholders are looking to lobby Congress next year to repeal or at least modify a section of the Medicare reform bill that reduces certain durable medical equipment (DME) payments to Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) levels.

December 08, 2003 | Daily News

The Congressional Budget Office predicts the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit signed into law by President Bush Dec. 8 will escalate rapidly after its $400 billion budget is used up in 2013, costing taxpayers more than $ 1 trillion over the subsequent 10 years as more Baby Boomers retire.

That projection is based on maintaining the current rate of increase in prescription drug costs and does not include any improvements in drug coverage, according to Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

December 05, 2003 | Daily News

Medicare conferees adopted a strict prohibition against future determinations by CMS that competing drugs are functionally equivalent, choosing language from the Senate bill over the House bill's call for FDA to establish its own standard for when competing drugs have the same impact.

"It's a flat out ban," said a source with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which had pushed for the Senate language.

December 04, 2003 | Daily News

Last-minute changes to the Medicare bill added $11 billion to the drug coverage for low-income beneficiaries, but Democratic critics charge the final legislation still falls short of the original Senate bill's low-income protections while sticking states with a permanent bill for Medicare's assumption of the low-income benefit. State lawmakers, who had sought a total buyout, are also upset.

December 03, 2003 | Daily News

Medicare conferees made last-minute concessions to minimize the effect of cuts in drug reimbursement for oncologists and other physicians, even as they extracted another $4.2 billion in savings by including inhalation drugs -- provided by major homecare companies -- in reform of the average wholesale price (AWP) drug payment system. President Bush plans to sign the mammoth Medicare bill Dec. 8.

November 26, 2003 | Daily News

Tucked into the mammoth Medicare deal hammered out by Congress is a provision that would require hospitals not currently covered by the OSH Act to meet the agency's bloodborne pathogen standard by July 1, 2004, or face civil monetary penalties. The new mandate includes state occupational safety and health plans approved under section 18(b) of the OSH Act.

November 26, 2003 | Daily News

Just hours after the Senate passed landmark Medicare reform legislation Nov. 25, Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) introduced his own bill to strip key provisions from the historic Medicare deal now heading to the president's desk. Daschle's bill aims to make prescription drugs more affordable by allowing the Medicare program to negotiate with industry for lower drug prices and letting Americans reimport U.S.-made drugs.

November 26, 2003 | Daily News

In the face of burgeoning federal deficits, Democrats and senior advocates are going to have a tough time trying to convince Congress to close the coverage gap in the new Medicare drug benefit that now awaits the signature of President Bush, according to lawmakers and experts on both sides of the debate.

November 25, 2003 | Daily News

Five months after the Senate overwhelmingly passed its own Medicare prescription drug bill, a compromise negotiated with House GOP leaders passed the Senate today (Nov. 25) by a much narrower margin as Democratic leaders railed against the inadequacy of the drug benefit and the bill's push for seniors to join private plans.

After Republican leadership was able to narrowly overcome House passed the conference report 220-215 after GOP leaders convinced colleagues to change their votes.

November 24, 2003 | Daily News

Senate Democrats failed in a last-ditch effort to kill the Medicare prescription drug bill today (Nov. 24), as the bill's backers were able to muster just enough votes to defeat, by a 61-39 margin, a budget point of order offered by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD).

The vote likely indicates the bill will pass the Senate when it comes to a final vote.. It waives all budget points of order against the Medicare bill, clearing the way of additional procedural hurdles Democrats could have put in the way of passage.

November 23, 2003 | Daily News

The House of Representatives approved a plan to reform Medicare and give seniors prescription drug coverage Saturday (Nov. 22), finally securing a GOP victory after a marathon roll call vote that initially looked set to deliver Democrats a major political upset.

Shortly before 6a.m. - almost three hours after the vote began - Republicans finally clinched enough votes to pass the predominantly GOP-crafted drug bill, 220 to 215. House Democrats condemned the result, which came after they led the vote tally by 218 to 216 for over an hour.

November 21, 2003 | Daily News

As proponents of Medicare drug legislation work to shore-up enough votes for passage, AARP -- one of the legislation's key backers -- has denied a suggestion by top Democrats that it has a financial conflict of interest in the landmark drug bill.

November 20, 2003 | Daily News

GOP leaders brought former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to the House Republican Conference Wednesday (Nov. 19) to try to convince House conservatives to vote for the Medicare conference report as Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) indicated that support for the bill among the party's right wing was tenuous.

Thomas told reporters that he is "concerned that they will vote against the bill because they are uninformed" about how fiscally conservative it actually is and that "it's my job to inform them."

November 20, 2003 | Daily News

House Democrats, worried that the Republican majority would renege on its promise to allow members three full calendar days to inspect the Medicare conference report before its consideration, issued a letter to the House Rules Committee demanding more time to inspect the bill.

November 20, 2003 | Daily News

Congress took a step closer to giving Medicare beneficiaries long-awaited prescription drug coverage today (Nov. 20), unveiling a $395 billion legislative blueprint hammered out by House and Senate negotiators that now heads to the House floor for an expected partisan vote battle.

November 20, 2003 | Daily News

The drug reimportation provisions of the Medicare conference report are subject to possible change but conferees appeared unlikely to remove a requirement for HHS certification before reimportation is allowed, according to Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

"It is under discussion," Grassley told reporters Nov. 19, but added that it was doubtful conferees would lift the certification requirement despite its potential to win key votes for the Medicare bill in the House.

November 19, 2003 | Daily News

Rep. John Carter (R-TX) on Tuesday (Nov. 18) became the first of the so-called "Toomey 13" to publicly announce his support for the Medicare conference report and said that other conservative Republicans would follow.

The group of 13 House GOP conservatives, led by Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), voted for the House bill in June but signed a letter in September threatening to vote against a conference report that lacks certain fiscally conservative provisions that were in the House bill.

November 19, 2003 | Daily News

Lawmakers of both parties and even HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson courted the House Blue Dog coalition Tuesday (Nov. 18) to support the Medicare bill, signaling the GOP's need for bipartisan backing as support from House conservative Republicans weakens.

Nine members of the moderate-to-conservative House Democratic group crossed party lines to secure passage of the House bill in June as the only members to defy the minority leadership. The coalition's potential for cross-over votes that could mitigate conservative GOP defections make it very valuable as a final vote draws nearer.