WASHINGTON–There isn’t even a remote chance that Congress would act on the party’s “6 for 06″ agenda–which includes removing a ban on the government setting prices for prescription drugs under Part D of Medicare–in the first 100 hours of the next Congress, representatives of the Democratic leadership said at a briefing on the congressional healthcare agenda for the next Congress.
These officials, as well as a representative of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also made that Democratic “pay-go,” policies, that is, a plan to re-introduce a requirement that any new program be paid for by taking from an existing program, will limit congressional action on healthcare legislative priorities in the next Congress.
That will include action on all healthcare issues, including the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a priority for both Democrats and Republicans in the next Congress.
Funding issues will cast a shadow on congressional action on healthcare issues, the speakers noted, including efforts to limit or end the so-called specifically, the so-called “donut hole” in the program.
That stems from the fact that the way the law authorizing the program is written, there is a gap in available coverage. Medicare pays 75% of initial drug costs up to $2,250 after a $250 deductible for most seniors. But then the program pays nothing until drug expenses reach $5,100, after which the government pays 95% of all costs. In Washington shorthand, this is called Medicare’s “donut hole.”
Mark Hayes, health policy director for Sen. Grassley, another participant, said that the poor, the people Democrats are most concerned about, aren’t affected by the “donut hole.”