Committee Oks Gop Health Plan Medicare, Medicaid Revisions Now Go to Senate Floor for Action

Article excerpt

The Senate Finance Committee approved a Republican blueprint early today for massive changes in the government's health programs for America's elderly, poor and disabled.

The panel voted to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid to save $450 billion over the next seven years as part for the GOP's program for balancing the federal budget by 2002.

Before the 11-9 party-line vote, the committee decided to make 10 percent of elderly people pay sharply higher premiums for their Medicare Part B coverage for doctor bills.

The Finance Committee directed that $71 billion be raised by increasing premiums and deductibles for Medicare beneficiaries. Seeking to blunt Democrats' charges that Medicare was being raided to fund tax cuts for the rich, the panel also voted to phase out taxpayer premium subsidies to single beneficiaries with incomes above $50,000 and couples with incomes of more than $75,000.

The vote sends the bill to the Senate floor for action. It was the first committee to act on both the Medicare and Medicaid revisions.

The House Commerce Committee has approved the Medicaid changes, but the House Ways and Means Committee has delayed taking up its version of the Medicare changes until Oct. 9.

Earlier, in a concession to Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., the panel voted to require states to keep covering poor children and pregnant women and the disabled even after Medicaid is turned over to the states in block grants. The revisions would give Medicare's 37 million elderly or disabled beneficiaries new choices of private health plans, including health maintenance organizations, while making them pay higher premiums and deductibles.

Medicare would be squeezed by $270 billion and its annual growth rate slowed to 6.3 percent from 10 percent. Elderly people also would be given choices of medical savings accounts, and strict limits would be clamped on how much Medicare would pay for medical services.

The monthly premiums of $46.10 now paid by beneficiaries would double by 2002. The premiums would go up even more sharply for affluent retirees. It would also make people 57 and younger wait longer to qualify for Medicare. …


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