Presidential Leadership

In a few short days, President Bush has asserted his leadership and taken control of the debate over Medicare reform. Following his speech on Tuesday before the AMA and the release of supporting documents by the White House, those who support competition and choice in Medicare now have something to rally around.

Evidence: The National Chamber Foundation sponsored a forum on Thursday morning with Medicare experts Sen. John Breaux and former Sen. Bob Kerrey, both Democrats, and Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson, chair of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.

Their speeches could not have been more supportive of the president’s approach. These leading politicians, along with the interest group and policy communities, are hungry for a new conversation to get away from the swamp we were in on Medicare and prescription drugs at the end of last summer, and now we have it.

While we don’t usually toot our own horn here, it does seem appropriate to point out that some of the ideas in the president’s plan reflect those in the Turner/Antos Prescription Drug Security (PDS) plan. And the president’s top health care advisor, Doug Badger, was very kind to credit our work in his luncheon speech at the Chamber.

Here are a few similarities:



  • To provide immediate relief for low-income seniors, the White House would give them $600 a year to help with drug purchases. This would be in addition to state drug assistance programs and private programs that the pharmaceutical companies provide. These grants to individuals are a vast improvement over the earlier White House plan to provide block grants to the states.


  • The money can be deposited to the private drug discount cards or it can go to health plans as an added incentive to provide drug coverage.


  • A new agency modeled on the Office of Personnel Management that runs the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program would be created to run the modernized Medicare program. The White House calls the new agency the Medicare Center for Beneficiary Choices. It would be charged with protecting the rights of consumers and negotiating with health plans on prices and benefits – something that the old Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is completely incapable of doing.
Most important, both the White House framework and our PDS plan are designed to build an infrastructure for a competitive Medicare program and to provide incentives for consumers to make wise decisions about their use of health care resources.

We are still very worried about what the Congress will do when it tackles the thorny issue of the catastrophic coverage – an integral part of our PDS plan – but more on that another day.

The president says he will put his political capital on the line to provide beneficiaries with a new option that will integrate a drug benefit into the overall program and give seniors choices. His passion for this issue was evident on Thursday afternoon when he took time off from preparations for his news conference to talk about Medicare with 100 health care leaders at the White House. He clearly means it when he says that this issue is a top priority.

We’re off and running?

Grace-Marie Turner




Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a not-for-profit research organization focusing on ideas to promote free-market health reform. She can be reached at P.O. Box 19080, Alexandria, VA, 22320.

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In a few short days, President Bush has asserted his leadership and taken control of the debate over Medicare reform. Following his speech on Tuesday before the AMA and the release of supporting documents by the White House, those who support competition and choice in Medicare now have something to rally around.

Evidence: The National Chamber Foundation sponsored a forum on Thursday morning with Medicare experts Sen. John Breaux and former Sen. Bob Kerrey, both Democrats, and Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson, chair of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.

Their speeches could not have been more supportive of the president’s approach. These leading politicians, along with the interest group and policy communities, are hungry for a new conversation to get away from the swamp we were in on Medicare and prescription drugs at the end of last summer, and now we have it.

While we don’t usually toot our own horn here, it does seem appropriate to point out that some of the ideas in the president’s plan reflect those in the Turner/Antos Prescription Drug Security (PDS) plan. And the president’s top health care advisor, Doug Badger, was very kind to credit our work in his luncheon speech at the Chamber.

Here are a few similarities:



  • To provide immediate relief for low-income seniors, the White House would give them $600 a year to help with drug purchases. This would be in addition to state drug assistance programs and private programs that the pharmaceutical companies provide. These grants to individuals are a vast improvement over the earlier White House plan to provide block grants to the states.


  • The money can be deposited to the private drug discount cards or it can go to health plans as an added incentive to provide drug coverage.


  • A new agency modeled on the Office of Personnel Management that runs the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program would be created to run the modernized Medicare program. The White House calls the new agency the Medicare Center for Beneficiary Choices. It would be charged with protecting the rights of consumers and negotiating with health plans on prices and benefits – something that the old Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is completely incapable of doing.
Most important, both the White House framework and our PDS plan are designed to build an infrastructure for a competitive Medicare program and to provide incentives for consumers to make wise decisions about their use of health care resources.

We are still very worried about what the Congress will do when it tackles the thorny issue of the catastrophic coverage – an integral part of our PDS plan – but more on that another day.

The president says he will put his political capital on the line to provide beneficiaries with a new option that will integrate a drug benefit into the overall program and give seniors choices. His passion for this issue was evident on Thursday afternoon when he took time off from preparations for his news conference to talk about Medicare with 100 health care leaders at the White House. He clearly means it when he says that this issue is a top priority.

We’re off and running?

Grace-Marie Turner




Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a not-for-profit research organization focusing on ideas to promote free-market health reform. She can be reached at P.O. Box 19080, Alexandria, VA, 22320.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

About the author