CNN U.S. News

Republican Medicare plan short on detail

September 22, 1995
Web posted at: 12:35 a.m. EDT

[Franken] [Loescher] From Correspondents Bob Franken and Skip Loescher

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Republicans held a news conference Thursday to release the details of their plan to trim $270 billion dollars from Medicare. But despite the hype, few details and even fewer numbers were included.

Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich described the 60-page document on the plan a "conceptual draft." "It gives you an outline in pretty good detail of the bill," he said.

The press conference did not satisfy House Democrats. A day earlier, their demands to the see the plan touched off a furious shouting match that was dubbed "the brawl in the hall."

The core of the Republican Medicare cost-reduction bill is Medicare Plus, a plan offering seniors a range of managed care plans, or HMO's, from which to choose.

[Doctor] Under the proposal, seniors would be encouraged to join HMO's or other managed care systems. If they pay a higher premium, they may chose their own doctors.

The plan also offer seniors the option of setting up medical savings accounts which would lower premiums, but leave participants with deductibles of up to $10,000 per year.

Premiums for Medicare participants would increase at a faster rate, and triple for participants with an annual income of more than $100,000.

Democrats and some senior citizens reacted negatively to the proposal as outlined by Gingrich Thursday. (43k AIFF sound)

"I don't want to run around some building and go from doctor to doctor," said one senior citizen.

"You mean they'd push us in there? They wouldn't give us a chance to say no?" said another.

Republicans insist their plan gives seniors more choices, not fewer. "If you're used to a government-run cafeteria, what you'll be getting now is a mall," Gingrich said. (77k AIFF sound)

HMO's typically limit choices of doctors and control specialized care. Generally, the healthier the subscribers, the bigger the profits.

This worries Dr. Kathy Brenneman, a gerontologist. "The managed care companies would go after the healthy elderly, and the frail, old elderly would be left out to fend for themselves without adequate coverage," she said.

Gingrich criticized the doctors, hospitals, laboratories and nursing homes who have claimed lower fees would result in a lower quality of patient care.

"They do not like the fact that we are not fat and sloppy as shoppers as we used to be for the taxpayers," he said. "The provider increases are smaller than they would like."

Democrats are furious because Republicans still haven't presented legislative language spelling out their plan in detail.

[Gibbons] "It will be a monstrosity as far as legislation is concerned. And, all of you who are anywhere familiar with Medicare know that the devil is in the details," said Rep. Sam Gibbons, D- Florida, who stormed out of a meeting on the proposed legislation Wednesday. (111k AIFF sound)

Democrats were also angered that House Republicans plan to hold only one hearing on their bill.

"I'm the first one to admit we have to do something with Medicare," said Rep. Charles Rangle, D-New York. "But we have to be able to make certain that we're doing what's right."

Not to worry, says Gingrich. "We're going to be good shoppers for the American people."

The question remains whether the American people will want to buy what the Republicans are selling.



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