Several ideas being discussed in the Medicare conference committee could be a way to find common ground in the long-stalled negotiations over a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
We believe that it is imperative that both parties in both Houses of Congress give broad support to final legislation that will add prescription drug coverage and make other improvements in Medicare.
Some have criticized AARP for calling for bipartisan compromise on the issues, but this criticism is misguided. Our members and all Medicare beneficiaries need help now. The time for broken promises is over. While we would not support legislation that would jeopardize Medicare for today's generation of beneficiaries or generations to follow, we have the opportunity now to provide some relief to millions of older Americans. If this legislation is not enacted this year, a major opportunity will have been lost and politics will have triumphed over policy and public health.
We are encouraged by the prospect of adding additional incentives to persuade employers to continue to provide health benefits to their retirees.
Also, the idea of a premium support demonstration (or test of comparative costs) which is limited in duration and location, with strict standards of accountability and low-income beneficiary protections, could strike a balance on the most intensely debated issue in the conference.
AARP urges that not only the conferees, but all members of Congress work towards an agreement that could be enacted with broad bipartisan support this year.
In the limited time remaining, we intend to continue to work with both sides to achieve the best possible legislation for our members and all Americans.