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Competing Bills Put Drug Benefit In Medicare

Analysts say chances of a Medicare drug benefit passing the Senate are slim. The Senate began debate on competing bills after the House narrowly passed a Republican-backed prescription benefit proposal.

Delaware Sen. Bill Roth, chairman of the Finance Committee, champions S2836, trying to find middle ground between the GOP's subsidized private-insurance plan and the president's government-controlled plan (see below).

But S2836 has received more criticism than support from both parties alike. A second bill in Roth's committee is similar to the House legislation, but the bill, S2807, coauthored by Tennessee Republican Bill Frist and Louisiana Democrat John Breaux, takes steps toward greater Medicare reform.

Health care industry support for the various proposals is split, and the lack of consensus makes it difficult for legislators to rally around one bill.

Meanwhile, the Senate is also expected to kill a House-approved collective-bargaining bill for health care professionals.

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