Policy Perspectives: The Elusive Drug Benefit
Carole P. Jennings PhD, RN

AJN, American Journal of Nursing
December 2002 
Volume 102  Number 12
Pages 79 - 85
  PDF Version Available!




  • Stay within a federal budget constraint.

  • Make at least a partial benefit available to all.

  • Protect those with very high expenditures.

  • Encourage large-scale participation on a voluntary basis.

  • Protect beneficiaries with low incomes.




  • On November 7, 2002, after Republicans regained a majority in the U.S. Senate and strengthened their lead in the House of Representatives, President Bush announced that passing a prescription drug benefit for Medicare beneficiaries would be one of his top policy priorities in 2003. Many analysts agree that the Patients’ Bill of Rights will take a back seat, and that private sector solutions will take precedence over government solutions to national health care policymaking.

    Because more Americans over age 65 rely on Medicare than any other group, the American Association of Retired Persons has been a force behind the fight for a drug benefit that will be available to Medicare beneficiaries at all income levels and with voluntary participation. 1,2 Nurses can and should be key players in this debate. This means understanding the proposals, as well as the politics and policies behind them. It also means being sensitive to the wants and needs of senior citizens.


    The House of Representatives passed its version of a drug benefit bill, the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2002 (HR 4954), on June 28, 2002. The new law would have added outpatient drug coverage to Medicare through a fourth part of the program, Part D. (Medicare covers hospital services through Part A and physician and laboratory services and outpatient care through Part B. Part C is Medicare+Choice, Medicare’s managed care program.) Participants ...

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