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Congress making moves on Medicare legislation

Thursday, November 13, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans moved Wednesday to close a deal on a prescription drug bill after offering to scale back their demand for direct competition between traditional Medicare and new private health plans.

Officials said that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., offered to drop a longstanding GOP demand to have direct competition become a permanent feature of Medicare.

In addition, Frist offered to commit an estimated $12 billion to $15 billion in additional funds to help discourage companies from curtailing or dropping existing health-care coverage for retirees.

"It could involve tens of millions of people. What it would do is penalize seniors who stay in Medicare," said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. "It would be the end of Medicare as we've known it."

Any compromise would create a new prescription drug benefit for the 40 million American elderly and disabled who receive Medicare.

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