What: All Issues : Health Care : Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs : H.R. 1. Prescription Drug Benefit/Vote to Instruct House Conferees to Adopt Senate Language Which Insures Drug Coverage For All Seniors During Conference Committee Negotiations.
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H.R. 1. Prescription Drug Benefit/Vote to Instruct House Conferees to Adopt Senate Language Which Insures Drug Coverage For All Seniors During Conference Committee Negotiations.
house Roll Call 528     Oct 01, 2003
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Conservative

Both the House and the Senate passed legislation earlier in the congressional session which would provide prescription drug coverage through private insurance companies. Because the legislation which emerged from each legislative body differed in certain respects, a conference committee was convened to iron out differences between the two bills. One area of policy disagreement involved the inclusion of a "fallback" option if two or more private insurers were not providing drug coverage to a particular area (without adequate competition among private insurance companies in a particular locality, the cost of health coverage in that area would likely increase because consumers would have few alternative health insurance options available to them and, as a result, private insurers could charge higher rates). A fallback option would have provided seniors in under-served regions of the country-regions which are usually poor and are avoided by private companies based on the lack of profit-making opportunities-with a government-backed health plan to insure that seniors in under-served areas are able to afford prescription drug coverage. In the Senate bill, Medicare would provide a federally-funded option of drug coverage to seniors in under-served regions. The House bill contained no fallback option. In a fifth attempt to require that House conferees adopt a Medicare fallback option for seniors in under-served areas, Representative Case (D-HI) motioned to instruct House conferees to adopt the Senate's fallback language during conference committee negotiations with the Senate (see also House votes 359, 502, 522, and 524). Progressives voted in favor of the motion to instruct based on their support for the fallback option. In their view, the fallback option was necessary to insure that seniors in under-served areas-which are usually poor areas that private companies avoid based on the lack of profit-making opportunities-still receive prescription drug coverage. Conservatives voted against Case's motion because, in their view, the original House version of the legislation already contained language to insure that all seniors are provided access to prescription drug coverage. Free-market competition among private insurance companies, which Conservatives argued would be created in the House bill, would in their view insure that all seniors had access to affordable prescription drug coverage. On a party line vote of 208-215, the motion to instruct was defeated and House conferees were not compelled to adopt the Senate's language which would have created a Medicare prescription drug fallback option for seniors in under-served areas.

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