The Senate has spent the majority of this week debating a bill (S. 812) that is designed to speed the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of low-cost generic drugs. During debate on the measure on July 18, two competing prescription drug proposals were offered as amendments. The Senate is set to vote on a procedural motion on both of the amendments on July 23.
The first amendment, offered by Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), is based on the Democratic bill (S. 2625) he has sponsored, which would cost roughly $594 billion over ten years. The Medicare Outpatient Prescription Drug Act would create a new voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit. The benefit would have a $25 monthly premium and no deductible. Beneficiaries would pay a $10 co-payment for generic drugs, a $40 co-payment for preferred brand-name drugs, and a $60 co-payment for nonpreferred brand-name drugs. Beneficiaries would have full coverage once their out-of-pocket expenses reached the catastrophic limit of $4,000.
The other amendment, offered by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), is based on a “tripartisan” bill (S. 2729) he has sponsored with Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and James Jeffords (I-VT), which is estimated to cost roughly $370 billion over ten years. The 21st Century Medicare Act would create a new voluntary, fee-for-service Medicare prescription drug benefit. The benefit would have a $24 monthly premium and a $250 deductible. Beneficiaries would pay for 50 percent of their drug costs up to $3,450, and they would be required to pay no more than 10 percent of their drug costs once they reach the catastrophic limit of $3,700.