A United Front

Grace-Marie Turner

(Reprinted with permission from Galen Institute Health Policy Matters)

Bob Moffit of The Heritage Foundation, Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute, and I have been meeting individually with several dozen members of Congress over the last few weeks to discuss upcoming action on Medicare and prescription drugs.

Members are intensely focused on these issues, which are expected to dominate the debate in both houses of Congress next month.

We have stressed that - no surprise to you - the right way to deliver a drug benefit is through an improved Medicare program that is modeled after the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

We also emphasized, among other things, that:

• It's imperative that Congress use any drug benefit legislation to build a foundation for a market-based Medicare program in which benefits are delivered by private, competing plans

• Premiums for the plans should be set by negotiation, not government fiat

• A new agency outside the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that understands competitive bidding (like the Office of Personnel Management) should be charged with running the new program

• Any new program should minimize crowding out the drug coverage that three-quarters of seniors already have.

We also have strongly warned against the dangers of government-run catastrophic coverage - which is an open invitation to extend Medicare's administered pricing structure to virtually all of the drugs consumed by seniors. And we stressed the importance of giving seniors incentives to make wise purchasing decisions and giving plans incentives to institute coordinated care and disease management programs.

Mike Franc, Dani Doane, and Tripp Baird of Heritage deserve kudos for their heroics in organizing and shepherding us through these meetings set up with so many members to show a united front among our three organizations. Thanks to Heritage for including Joe and me in these meetings.

This conversation will continue on Monday, June 2, on Capitol Hill with a public briefing sponsored by Heritage, AEI, and Galen. We hope you will be able to join us for lunch when we will lay out our principles and recommendations for Medicare and prescription drugs. See the events section below for registration information.

A highlight of the briefing will be the release of the long-awaited Consensus Group Statement on Medicare and Prescription Drugs. Please don't miss this kick-off event for the Medicare drug debate.

And speaking of great events, we hope you were able to attend the excellent forum at AEI this week on implementation of the tax credits enacted in 2002. If you couldn't join us, here's yet another of the stellar event reports by Galen's Joe Moser. www.galen.org/events/ER052103.html

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