Tuesday :: Jan 24, 2006

Congressional GOP Leadership Gives HMOs $22 Billion Gift While Shafting Seniors On Medicare Part D Donut Hole


by Steve

If you want to see Exhibit A of how the Medicare Part D corporate welfare boondoggle can be used against the Congressional GOP leadership to take back one house of Congress this fall, check out what happened last month behind closed doors with no Democrats present. In essence, good government Charles Grassley and his counterpart Bill Thomas in the House decided to hand the HMO industry a multi-billion dollar gift by eliminating proposed cost savings measures in the Medicare Part D program that would have reduced the reimbursements to the industry.

House and Senate GOP negotiators, meeting behind closed doors last month to complete a major budget-cutting bill, agreed on a change to Senate-passed Medicare legislation that would save the health insurance industry $22 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The Senate version would have targeted private HMOs participating in Medicare by changing the formula that governs their reimbursement, lowering payments $26 billion over the next decade. But after lobbying by the health insurance industry, the final version made a critical change that had the effect of eliminating all but $4 billion of the projected savings, according to CBO and other health policy experts.
That change was made in mid-December during private negotiations involving House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and the staffs of those committees as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee. House and Senate Democrats were excluded from the meeting.
The GOP did this at the same time the program was being haphazardly implemented by the Bush Administration, with a donut hole in the coverage that saddles the elderly with large drug costs. And why did the Bush Administration and the Congressional GOP leadership not pass a bill in 2003 that had no donut hole? Because they said it would have cost too much to do so, while at the same time they managed to pass a bill that didn’t have drug reimportation or best-price negotiation provisions that would have paid for the donut hole coverage and made the program more cost-effective. But behind closed doors last month, good ole’ Chuck Grassley and his sleazy counterpart Bill Thomas, after pocketing contributions from the industry, stripped out the portions of the budget reconciliation bill that would have cost the HMO industry billions, while doing nothing to help seniors with the donut hole. At least the Democrats are now proposing to eliminate the donut hole to provide seniors with better coverage, thereby forcing the GOP to explain why it is better to give the HMOs a $22 billion gift than it is to provide seniors with adequate coverage.

But remember, congressional corruption they tell us is a bipartisan problem.

This is your one-party control, Congressional GOP in action. And if you don’t think Democrats can barnstorm the country in key districts this year and use the Medicare Part D program and this example of GOP sacrificing of seniors to please industry as a club to take back at least one house of Congress this fall, then you are a real Kool-Aid drinker.

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