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Obama drops controversial Medicare proposal

WASHINGTON —

The Obama administration said Monday it will pull the plug on proposed changes to the Medicare prescription program that ran into strong opposition on Capitol Hill.

Among other changes, the regulation proposed to remove three classes of drugs from a special protected list that guarantees seniors access to a wide selection of critical medications.

The three classes of drugs facing removal were antidepressants, antipsychotics, and drugs that suppress the immune system to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ.

The administration hoped to save a total of $729 million by 2019 with the change. But groups including the National Kidney Foundation and the National Alliance on Mental Illness pushed back hard.

Medicare administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a letter to Congress that the administration will not move forward with the changes.

In his proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, which totals roughly $3.8 trillion, Obama steered clear of structural changes in social welfare programs, which make up about 60 percent of the budget.

But he proposed substantial savings in Medicare, including cuts in payments for nursing homes and home health agencies.

Although Medicare costs have been growing slowly, the number of beneficiaries is expected to grow 35 percent in a decade, to 70 million in 2024. And the cost of Medicare drug benefits is expected to shoot up to $170 billion, from $70 billion this year.

The administration also is planning steps to prevent people in the country illegally from obtaining Medicare. — AP

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