THE NEXT CONGRESS
November 3, 2006
Democrats would use a new majority in Congress next year to highlight contentious health care issues such as high prescription-drug prices and funding for stem-cell research. Republicans, meanwhile, would push for an expansion of consumer-driven health care to reduce U.S. reliance on entitlement programs, says the Washington Times.
- At the top of the Democrats' health care agenda is giving the federal government the ability to negotiate Medicare drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical companies.
- Democrats would repeal the ban on allowing Medicare to use the bargaining power of its 43 million beneficiaries to negotiate lower drug prices, said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
- A Democratic majority also would focus on expanding health insurance for children and stem-cell research.
If Republicans retain their majority in Congress:
- They would push to improve the private health care system through an expansion of health savings accounts and tax deductions for people in private health plans.
- Republicans would push for health care reform mainly through market reform, which rely less on government, including the expansion of consumer-driven programs such as health savings accounts (HSAs), which were introduced in 2003 and allow workers to put their own money into tax-deferred savings accounts.
Both parties agree that the State Children's Health Insurance Program must be re-authorized in the next Congress, saying the program is essential to reducing the number of uninsured. However, the two disagree on how it should go forward.
"Republicans will continue to encourage the kinds of reforms that use public money to expand private health insurance," said John Goodman, president for the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Republican strategy firm. "The Democrats are going in the opposite direction."
Source: Gregory Lopes, "Democrats write new prescription," Washington Times, November 3, 2006.
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