White House, Republicans Explore Medicare Changes
One participant calls it a 'low-temperature' meeting
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 3) -- Amid a new spirit of cooperation, the Clinton Administration and House Republican leaders explored a compromise today to offer so-called "medical savings accounts" to Medicare recipients.
While the administration has opposed the idea in the past, White House officials have left the door open for a possible deal with Republicans.
Under consideration is a pilot project that would let 500,000 seniors open the medical savings accounts to test their usefulness and cost. It's similar to the experiment for non-Medicare recipients approved by the Congress and the White House last year.
With the accounts, the government would give people on Medicare cash vouchers to purchase coverage for catastrophic health care. They could deposit any leftover money into tax-exempt accounts, using it to pay other medical bills. The idea is to give people more choices and inject greater competition into the health care field.
"It was a very good meeting. Low temperature," Rep. Thomas Bliley, a Virginia Republican, told The Associated Press afterward. "We've got our work cut out for us, but I think we'll get there in the end."
Others who attended the White House meeting included President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Reps. Bill Archer (R-Texas), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Pete Stark (D-Calif.).
The Clinton Administration and many Democrats in Congress remain concerned that the medical savings accounts would end up subsidizing wealthier, healthier people, while the Medicare system would wind up treating the sickest people.
White House officials also reacted positively to other Medicare proposals by the Republicans, led by Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.). Their ideas include:
Under the balanced budget agreement, Medicare's projected growth over the next five years will be cut by $115 billion.CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Charles Bierbauer contributed to this report.
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