Washington Outlook

House Passes Prescription Drug Coverage Bill

By Crystal Swann
July 17, 2000

On June 28, after12 hours of debate and a walkout by Democrats, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Medicare Rx 2000 Act (HR 4680) by a vote of 217-214. The GOP-sponsored bill would expand Medicare to include voluntary prescription drug coverage for seniors and disabled beneficiaries. Medicare Rx 2000 Act would allow private insurance companies to develop the coverage packages while the government would subsidize the insurers' costs. The bill would likely require beneficiaries to pay monthly premiums between $35 and $40 and require a $250 deductible. In addition, it would cover half the drug costs up to $2,100 above the deductible. Coverage would increase to 100% once out-of-pocket drug costs exceeded $6,000.

Angered that they were not allowed to offer an alternative bill, Democrats staged a series of procedural votes that delayed debate on the bill for nearly 12 hours. After losing on a motion to recommit with instructions, they left the House floor. The walkout marks another stage in a long battle between Democratic and Republican lawmakers on who will succeed in passing prescription drug coverage legislation this year. Senate action on the bill has not been scheduled.

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