Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries: How the Reform Bills Address Their Drug Needs

September 5, 2003

Dual eligibles are low-income Medicare beneficiaries who are also eligible for Medicaid. They are a vulnerable population because of their disproportionately high medical and long-term care needs. At any given time, nearly seven million individuals are considered dual eligibles, representing around one in six Medicare beneficiaries and one in seven Medicaid beneficiaries.

The House and Senate versions of a Medicare prescription drug bill treat the drug costs of dual-eligibles and other low-income Medicare beneficiaries quite differently. How do the bills address these low-income groups? What are the major differences in their approaches to providing prescription drug coverage for low-income Medicare beneficiaries? How do state governments view the two approaches?

To help address these and related questions, the Alliance for Health Reform and The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured sponsored September 5, 2003 briefing. Panelists were: Jocelyn Guyer of the Kaiser Commission; John McManus, staff director of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee; Linda Fishman, health policy director for the Senate Finance Committee; Amy Hall of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Marcia Morgan, secretary of the cabinet for health services for the State of Kentucky. Ed Howard of the Alliance and Diane Rowland of the Kaiser Commission moderated the discussion.

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