Administration says 'no' to delaying Medicare drug benefit start-up

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House members have so far not convinced the Bush administration to delay the start of the Medicare prescription drug plan as a way to offset the costs of rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina.

"We're not delaying Part D [the drug benefit]. I don't know how many times I can say that," Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Mark McClellan said earlier this week.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy also dismissed the proposed delay, saying the administration had made a commitment to the nation's elderly.

In launching Operation Offset, a plan to fund recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast, members of the http://johnshadegg.house.gov/rsc/  House Republican Study Committee proposed delaying implementation of the drug benefit. Delaying the start of the new drug plan until January 2006 would save $40 billion, said Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), chair of the committee.

Spending on recovery in the Gulf Coast region following Katrina is estimated to reach $200 billion, which likely will be tacked on to the federal deficit, many members of Congress point out.

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