NU Online News Service, Nov. 24, 2003, 7:55 p.m. EST – The Senate today continued to debate a compromise version of H.R. 1, a Medicare prescription drug program and Health Savings Account bill backed by many insurers and insurance trade groups.[@@]
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., had tried to prevent the Senate from voting on the bill. He began an effort Saturday to block a vote by organizing a filibuster, or an endless series of speeches by bill opponents.
Today, the Senate voted 70-29 today to invoke cloture. A vote for cloture is supposed to end debate on a bill within 30 hours of passage.
The Senate also voted 61-39 to beat back a motion introduced by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., that would have put off a vote on H.R. 1 by declaring that the current version of the bill violates the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
The House approved the “conference report” on H.R. 1, or the compromise version, Saturday by a 220-215 vote.
President Bush is supporting the bill, and press reports are calling the final vote on the bill, which is scheduled for Tuesday, a formality.
The drug program created by the bill would start out providing prescription discount cards for all Medicare beneficiaries. In 2006, the program would begin charging Medicare beneficiaries $35 per month for a plan that would pay none of an individual’s first $250 in annual eligible drug costs; 75% of the costs between $250 and $2,250; and 95% to 100% of the costs over $3,600.
The program would reduce or eliminate most out-of-pocket prescription costs for the poorest Medicare beneficiaries, according to a copy of a joint explanatory statement posted on the House Web site.