What: All Issues : Health Care : S Con Res 13. (Fiscal 2010 budget resolution) Ensign of Nevada amendment that would allow for a requirement that higher-income Medicare drug beneficiaries pay a larger share of their premiums/On agreeing to the amendment (2009 senate Roll Call 128)
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S Con Res 13. (Fiscal 2010 budget resolution) Ensign of Nevada amendment that would allow for a requirement that higher-income Medicare drug beneficiaries pay a larger share of their premiums/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 128     Apr 02, 2009
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win
Qualifies as polarizing?
Yes
Is this vote crucial?
No

This vote was on an amendment by John Ensign, R-Nev., that would provide for a requirement that Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the prescription drug benefit pay a larger share of their premiums (often called “means testing”).   The amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2010.  The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.

Ensign said his amendment would help save about $3 billion.

“What we are doing with this amendment is saying to seniors, that instead of a schoolteacher, firefighter or police officer, the middle-income folks out there having to pay higher taxes in order to pay for your prescription drugs, if you have the means, then you should pay for them,” Ensign said, adding that his amendment would apply the savings toward paying down the deficit.

Ensign noted that his amendment is similar to a proposal put forward by President Obama, except that Obama’s proposal would reapply the savings to health care instead of to deficit reduction.

Max Baucus, D-Mont., said the concept has merit, but that Ensign’s amendment is flawed in two ways.

“The effect of the Senator’s amendment is twofold. One is to suggest means testing [Medicare’s drug benefit], which is in the President’s budget, but the President doesn’t want to use means testing to reduce spending on health care. He doesn’t want that. So it would accomplish both purposes; that is, to be sure we meaningfully address means testing but in a way that doesn’t hurt the efforts of health care reform,” Baucus said.  He also added that since Congress will be dealing with health care reform separately, it makes more sense to consider this issue in that context, “where the pieces will fit together in a way that makes more sense.”

By a vote of 39-58, the amendment was rejected.  All but three Republicans present voted for the amendment.  All but two Democrats present voted against the amendment.  The end result is that the measure went forward without language that would have allowed a requirement that higher-income Medicare beneficiaries pay more of their prescription drug premiums.

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