Remember When Democrats Promised to “Fix” Medicare Part D? Marion Berry (D-AR) Does

Marion Berry (D-AR) is unlikely vote for the Senate health care bill in the House, but he has recently submitted is own, less comprehensive health care bill (PDF). Primarily, what it does is fix the problems with the Medicare Part D program created by former Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin, which Democrats have been promising to fix for years. That is until President Obama promised now PhRMA lobbyist Billy Tauzin to not fix Medicare Part D as part of health care reform.

Marion Berry's bill is a surprisingly populist, consumer-friendly affair. It contains some consumer protection regulations, it repeals the health insurance industry's anti-trust exemption, and imposes a minimum medical loss ratio of 92%. Which, if properly enforced (and that is a big “if"), should effectively make it not worthwhile to be a for-profit health insurance company.

The biggest thing the bill does is fix the two most glaring problems with Medicare Part D that Democrats have been demagoging for years. It would allow for drug re-importation and direct Medicare drug price negotiation by creating a "Medicare operated prescription drug plan"--a public option on the Medicare Part D exchange to compete with the private plans.

Marion Berry's bill is clearly not going anywhere and, strangely, contains abortion restriction language, which makes no policy sense because it does not directly expand coverage with federal money. What the bill does sadly show is that many popular progressive health care reform provisions, like drug re-importation, direct drug price negotiation, repealing anti-trust exemption, are even supported by very conservative Democrats. It is amazing that, while Democrats completely control Congress and the White House, core party platform planks like drug re-importation and Medicare direct drug price negotiations still go unfixed. Of course, I'm sure some magical Senate rule is to "blame."

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