Administration Drops Controversial Medicare Changes

The Medicare agency is abandoning changes that conservatives said would undermine its drug coverage.

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 16: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown August 16, 2006 in Washington, DC. The HHS Building, also known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, is located at the foot of Capitol Hill and is named for Humphrey, who served as a U.S. senator from Minnesota and Vice President of the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sam Baker
Add to Briefcase
Sam Baker
March 10, 2014, 8:50 a.m.

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is back­ing off of con­tro­ver­sial changes to the way Medi­care cov­ers pre­scrip­tion drugs.

Con­ser­vat­ives and many law­makers had as­sailed the pro­posed changes, ar­guing that they would have fun­da­ment­ally changed the nature of Medi­care’s drug be­ne­fit, known as Part D. The Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices said in a let­ter to mem­bers of Con­gress on Monday that it would not move for­ward with the most con­tro­ver­sial changes.

CMS aban­doned pro­pos­als that would have ex­pan­ded the agency’s power to get in­volved in ne­go­ti­ations between Part D plans and phar­ma­cies. Un­til the pro­posed changes, CMS had be­lieved it did not have the au­thor­ity to be a part of those ne­go­ti­ations. It pro­posed a re­in­ter­pret­a­tion of its power, which promp­ted cri­ti­cism that the agency would un­der­mine a pop­u­lar part of the Medi­care pro­gram.

CMS had also pro­posed, but has now aban­doned, new rules for how Part D plans es­tab­lish their phar­macy net­works. The pro­pos­als would have al­lowed more phar­ma­cies to win deals as “pre­ferred” pro­viders. Ac­cord­ing to an ana­lys­is from the con­ser­vat­ive Amer­ic­an Ac­tion For­um, that would have re­duced the num­ber of pre­ferred phar­ma­cies and po­ten­tially raised seni­ors’ costs.

“Giv­en the com­plex­it­ies of these is­sues and stake­hold­er in­put, we do not plan to fi­nal­ize these pro­pos­als at this time,” CMS said Monday in a let­ter to mem­bers of Con­gress. “We will en­gage in fur­ther stake­hold­er in­put be­fore ad­van­cing some or all of the changes in these areas in fu­ture years.”

What We're Following See More »
Republican Polling Shows Close Race
Roundup: National Polling Remains Inconsistent
4 hours ago

The national polls, once again, tell very different stories: Clinton leads by just one point in the IBD, Rasmussen, and LA Times tracking polls, while she shows a commanding 12 point lead in the ABC news poll and a smaller but sizable five point lead in the CNN poll. The Republican Remington Research Group released a slew of polls showing Trump up in Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina, a tie in Florida, and Clinton leads in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia. However, an independent Siena poll shows Clinton up 7 in North Carolina, while a Monmouth poll shows Trump up one in Arizona

Colin Powell to Vote for Clinton
7 hours ago
Cook Report: Dems to Pick up 5-7 Seats, Retake Senate
9 hours ago

Since the release of the Access Hollywood tape, on which Donald Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women, "Senate Republicans have seen their fortunes dip, particularly in states like Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada and Pennsylvania," where Hillary Clinton now leads. Jennifer Duffy writes that she now expects Democrats to gain five to seven seats—enough to regain control of the chamber.

"Of the Senate seats in the Toss Up column, Trump only leads in Indiana and Missouri where both Republicans are running a few points behind him. ... History shows that races in the Toss Up column never split down the middle; one party tends to win the lion’s share of them."

Tying Republicans to Trump Now an Actionable Offense
11 hours ago

"Some Republicans are running so far away from their party’s nominee that they are threatening to sue TV stations for running ads that suggest they support Donald Trump. Just two weeks before Election Day, five Republicans―Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), David Jolly (R-Fla.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican running for an open seat that’s currently occupied by his brother―contend that certain commercials paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee provide false or misleading information by connecting them to the GOP nominee. Trump is so terrible, these Republicans are essentially arguing, that tying them to him amounts to defamation."

Former Congressman Schock Fined $10,000
11 hours ago

Former Illinois GOP Congressman Aaron Schock "recently agreed to pay a $10,000 fine for making an excessive solicitation for a super PAC that was active in his home state of Illinois four years ago." Schock resigned from Congress after a story about his Downton Abbey-themed congressional office raised questions about how he was using taxpayer dollars.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.