Medicare Reform

August 22, 2003 • Volume 13, Issue 28
Will policymakers agree on prescription-drug benefits?
By Adriel Bettelheim

Introduction

John Polimeno, a retiree in Reading, Mass., displays the medications taken daily by his wife, a diabetic with heart, kidney and respiratory ailments. High drug prices have led seniors to demand that Medicare help pay for prescription drugs.  (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
John Polimeno, a retiree in Reading, Mass., displays the medications taken daily by his wife, a diabetic with heart, kidney and respiratory ailments. High drug prices have led seniors to demand that Medicare help pay for prescription drugs. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Lawmakers are considering the most significant changes to Medicare — the federal health-insurance program for the elderly and disabled — since it was established in 1965. If they reach an agreement, Medicare's 41 million beneficiaries will be able to obtain prescription-drug coverage through private health-insurance plans. Private insurers also will likely play an expanded role delivering health services to seniors. But Republicans and Democrats remain far apart. Republicans want to inject market competition into the Medicare system, convinced it is the only way to control rising program costs. Democrats want to protect Medicare's core fee-for-service program and its principle of equal benefits for all. The negotiations are shaping up to be the most significant health-policy debate in years.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Medicaid and Medicare
Jul. 16, 2004  Medicaid Reform
Aug. 22, 2003  Medicare Reform
Jul. 18, 1975  Medicare and Medicaid After Ten Years
May 24, 1967  Medical Costs and Medicare
Dec. 08, 1965  Preparations for Medicare
Apr. 20, 1960  Medical Aid to the Aged
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Medicaid and Medicare
Medicaid and Medicare
Pharmaceuticals