Democrats vow to re-examine Medicare provisions, Baucus says

WASHINGTON Cuts in Medicare payments to private health insurers won’t be included in a children’s health bill, leaving the program at a standstill, a Wall Street Journal article reports.

Unless Congress and the White House agree to the funding of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expires at the end of September, approximately five million children will be left uninsured. To mitigate this, Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees Medicare, has debated with the idea of cutting payments to Medicare Advantage insurers and increasing taxation on tobacco products to balance the lack of funding.

Baucus also said that the Medicare committee wishes to improve other aspects of the program, including improvements in having health insurers pay retail pharmacies immediately following the dispensing of medications.

Senate Democrats, led by Baucus, have passed a bill by a margin of 68 to 31 to increase funding by $35 billion. The House Democrats’ bill, sponsored by Michigan’s John Dingell, passed 225 to 204 and increases that amount to $50 billion.

President Bush, on the other hand, wishes to increase the budget of the children’s health bill by a comparatively small $5 billion over five years, and treat the federal-state health insurance policy the same way the government treats food and housing—which is, making it available to low-income families only.