New Legislation Would Limit Federal Spending for Medicare Rx Benefit

Ken Rankin
Published Online: Sunday, May 1, 2005

There may not be enough money to fund the new Medicare prescription drug program scheduled to take effect next year if Congress approves new legislation introduced by Sens Lindsey Graham (R, SC) and Jeff Sessions (R, Ala).

Their bill would limit spending on the Medicare drug benefit to the original Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of $395 billion over 10 years. Since that estimate was issued, however, CBO has revised its cost estimate upward significantly, and now believes the program will cost more than double that amount—$849 billion between 2006 and 2015.

Under the proposed legislation, annual spending caps would be established for the program, and the president would be required to submit legislation to scale back the benefit if spending goes beyond that amount.

"I was always concerned the projected costs of the Medicare prescription drug benefit would turn out to be wrong," Sen Graham said with regard to the escalating cost of the program. "Even I was surprised at how quickly and dramatically the projected costs of the program spiked."

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.

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