Washington at night (Credit: iStock)

The drug cost bill that passed in the U.S. House Thursday could lead to big changes in the original Medicare program.

House members passed H.R. 3, the “Elijan E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act” bill, by a 230-192 vote.

(Related: Taking the Bite Out of Dental Care Costs in Retirement)

Only two Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the bill, and no Democrats passed party lines in the Senate.

Many patient groups, including AARP, are supporting the bill, but some, including the Men’s Health Network, contend that provisions meant to hold down drug costs would discourage pharmaceutical companies from developing new drugs to fight terrible diseases.

The House has posted several different versions of H.R. 3 on its bill action site. House Democrats appear to be assuming that they’ve passed a version posted on the House floor action website at 12:07 p.m. Monday.

Here are three non-drug sections of interest to insurance agents and brokers:

  • Section 601 would add dental and benefits to the original Medicare program.
  • Section 602 would add audiology and hearing benefits to Original Medicare.
  • Section 603 would add vision care benefits to Original Medicare.
  • Section 801 would give people who qualify to have Medicare because they are disabled, rather than because they’re old, the ability to buy Medicare supplement insurance on a guaranteed issue basis during an open enrollment period.

H.R. 3 itself is seen as having little hope of passing in the Senate. But members of Congress could move popular H.R. 3 provisions into a must-pass spending bill. Even if the Medicare dental, hearing and vision benefits provisions die this year, they could up returning in new bills later.

Resources

A copy of the 12:07 p.m. Dec. 9 version of H.R. 3 is available here.

—Read Tell Your Clients How Medicare Advantage Plans Are Changing,  on ThinkAdvisor.

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