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Daschle knocks House drug plan

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 27, 2003

WASHINGTON - Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., made a pitch Saturday for his chamber's version of the Medicare prescription drug benefit plan.

Features of the package passed by the House of Representatives would "place an unfair extra burden on seniors who are already struggling to pay their monthly health care bills," he said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.

The House and Senate passed different prescription drug benefit plans last month, and lawmakers have begun negotiations for a final package.

The committee with representatives from both the House and the Senate made some headway Thursday when it approved a technical section of the plan that deals with Medicare contracting, patient appeals and other regulatory matters.

The relatively uncontested section of the plan would make the program's regulations clearer for Medicare providers and help recipients get information about their coverage.

Negotiators expect the debate to heat up when they return from their August recess. The House began its vacation Friday and the Senate will follow at the end of next week.

The bill approved by the House won the votes of only nine Democrats, while both parties' Senate leaders backed their chamber's measure.

Under the House plan, prescription drug premiums could rise by as much as 25 percent for traditional Medicare recipients, Daschle said.

As Medicare enters its 39th year, the program's obligations to seniors are as important as ever, Daschle said. He urged citizens to tell their lawmakers the nation needs a clear and effective prescription drug benefit program.

In 1965, most older Americans were medically uninsured. Now, thanks to Medicare, virtually all of them are insured, Daschle said.

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