Health issues on Congressional docket for year ahead

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Prepping for the 2008 elections, Congress is likely to consider several health-related matters in the year ahead. Top matters include Medicare reforms, prescription drugs, and insurance-coverage gaps, according to USA Today.

The paper noted that Democrats and Republicans are "working to lay claim to what they expect will be popular issues with voters." Some Democrats, such as incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), likely will seek to require the federal government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies on prices for medications under the Medicare prescription drug benefit. In addition, Congress likely will consider payments to Medicare Advantage plans. Congress also might consider efforts to improve the long-term finances of Medicare and the elimination of the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap in the prescription drug benefit.

In a somewhat related development, President Bush has indicated he would support a hike in the minimum wage if it is tied to tax cuts.