Taking a Stand

The Health Policy Consensus Group on Monday released its important new statement on Medicare and Prescription Drugs to an overflow, standing-room-only crowd on Capitol Hill.

We were impressed not only with how may people joined us but also the heavy-hitters who attended the briefing, including nearly half of the signatories of the Consensus Group statement.

It’s never easy to get 26 very smart and opinionated experts from the free-market policy community to agree on a single four-page statement, but many months of meetings, and countless phone calls and e-mail messages later, we worked hard to deliver a vision with principles and recommendations for Medicare. Here’s a link to the Consensus Group statement. www.galen.org/news/CG_Medicare_Statement.pdf

Monday’s briefing, jointly sponsored by the Galen Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute, also featured presentations by Bob Moffit of Heritage, Joe Antos of AEI, and me, with Mike Franc of Heritage as moderator.

We described the pitfalls and possibilities for Medicare reform, pointing out the dangerous traps Congress could fall into by going the wrong way and the huge opportunities for moving in a market-based direction. Here are links to the executive summary of our presentations and the PowerPoint we used.

Bipartisan agreement. Months of back room negotiations in the Senate culminated on Thursday as Finance chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Democrat Max Baucus announced a bipartisan deal on prescription drugs and Medicare improvements.

It contains elements of President Bush’s framework, allowing seniors to choose from competing private plans, such as preferred provider organizations, that would provide a drug benefit along with more comprehensive health coverage.

Seniors also can stay in traditional Medicare and buy separate drug coverage based upon a structure that resembles last year’s House-passed bill and Senate tri-partisan bill.

With Sen. Ted Kennedy calling the Senate plan ?a major breakthrough? and Minority Leader Tom Daschle saying he doesn’t intend to filibuster, Senate passage of drug legislation now appears highly likely, possibly with more than 60 votes. The House certainly will follow with a bill of its own, and the president is almost certain to sign whatever comes out of conference.

Does the bill follow the vision outlined by the Consensus Group in Monday’s briefing?

The Consensus Group statement says that, ?The best way to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare is by updating the program to introduce competition and choice, allowing it to adapt to the continuing need for improved benefits. In a Medicare program responsive to consumer demands, beneficiaries would have a choice of competing private plans that would cover a range of health care services, including prescription drugs.?

So certainly, the Senate agreement appears to be on track. But the details still are sketchy, so we’ll fill you in on the dangers and opportunities when we learn more specifics. Here’s a link to the outline of the Senate agreement on the Finance Committee site. finance.senate.gov/press/Gpress/2003/prg060503a.pdf

Stay tuned. June will be Medicare month in Washington, and we’ll be closely monitoring the debate.

Heading West. On Wednesday, I flew to Salt Lake City for a keynote speech on Thursday morning to the annual meeting of the Utah Association of Health Underwriters. This is a growing and influential group of health insurance brokers, led by outgoing President Ryan McDermott and incoming president Steve Woolston, that is working in partnership with state lawmakers on creative solutions to expand health coverage.

About 11% of Utah residents are uninsured, and Secretary Thompson has just approved the latest in a series of Section 1115 waivers for Utah to try to reduce that number further.

Instead of adding more low-income workers to Medicaid and other state-funded programs, the waiver will help low-income workers to purchase health insurance offered through their workplace, coverage that they otherwise likely couldn’t afford. This is an idea we have long advocated to give workers the security and dignity of private health insurance, also helping them to add their dependents to the job-based policy.

This is progress.

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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The Health Policy Consensus Group on Monday released its important new statement on Medicare and Prescription Drugs to an overflow, standing-room-only crowd on Capitol Hill.

We were impressed not only with how may people joined us but also the heavy-hitters who attended the briefing, including nearly half of the signatories of the Consensus Group statement.

It’s never easy to get 26 very smart and opinionated experts from the free-market policy community to agree on a single four-page statement, but many months of meetings, and countless phone calls and e-mail messages later, we worked hard to deliver a vision with principles and recommendations for Medicare. Here’s a link to the Consensus Group statement. www.galen.org/news/CG_Medicare_Statement.pdf

Monday’s briefing, jointly sponsored by the Galen Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute, also featured presentations by Bob Moffit of Heritage, Joe Antos of AEI, and me, with Mike Franc of Heritage as moderator.

We described the pitfalls and possibilities for Medicare reform, pointing out the dangerous traps Congress could fall into by going the wrong way and the huge opportunities for moving in a market-based direction. Here are links to the executive summary of our presentations and the PowerPoint we used.

Bipartisan agreement. Months of back room negotiations in the Senate culminated on Thursday as Finance chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Democrat Max Baucus announced a bipartisan deal on prescription drugs and Medicare improvements.

It contains elements of President Bush’s framework, allowing seniors to choose from competing private plans, such as preferred provider organizations, that would provide a drug benefit along with more comprehensive health coverage.

Seniors also can stay in traditional Medicare and buy separate drug coverage based upon a structure that resembles last year’s House-passed bill and Senate tri-partisan bill.

With Sen. Ted Kennedy calling the Senate plan ?a major breakthrough? and Minority Leader Tom Daschle saying he doesn’t intend to filibuster, Senate passage of drug legislation now appears highly likely, possibly with more than 60 votes. The House certainly will follow with a bill of its own, and the president is almost certain to sign whatever comes out of conference.

Does the bill follow the vision outlined by the Consensus Group in Monday’s briefing?

The Consensus Group statement says that, ?The best way to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare is by updating the program to introduce competition and choice, allowing it to adapt to the continuing need for improved benefits. In a Medicare program responsive to consumer demands, beneficiaries would have a choice of competing private plans that would cover a range of health care services, including prescription drugs.?

So certainly, the Senate agreement appears to be on track. But the details still are sketchy, so we’ll fill you in on the dangers and opportunities when we learn more specifics. Here’s a link to the outline of the Senate agreement on the Finance Committee site. finance.senate.gov/press/Gpress/2003/prg060503a.pdf

Stay tuned. June will be Medicare month in Washington, and we’ll be closely monitoring the debate.

Heading West. On Wednesday, I flew to Salt Lake City for a keynote speech on Thursday morning to the annual meeting of the Utah Association of Health Underwriters. This is a growing and influential group of health insurance brokers, led by outgoing President Ryan McDermott and incoming president Steve Woolston, that is working in partnership with state lawmakers on creative solutions to expand health coverage.

About 11% of Utah residents are uninsured, and Secretary Thompson has just approved the latest in a series of Section 1115 waivers for Utah to try to reduce that number further.

Instead of adding more low-income workers to Medicaid and other state-funded programs, the waiver will help low-income workers to purchase health insurance offered through their workplace, coverage that they otherwise likely couldn’t afford. This is an idea we have long advocated to give workers the security and dignity of private health insurance, also helping them to add their dependents to the job-based policy.

This is progress.

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