October 20, 2006—Congressional Democrats, confident of gaining the majority, have drafted a health care agenda that includes lowering prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, providing more money for children’s health insurance, and expanding embryonic stem cell research, according to an article in the New York Times.

Democrats in the House and Senate want federal officials to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries, an action explicitly forbidden by the 2003 Medicare law, the article states. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) says Democrats would try to repeal that ban within 100 hours of the House convening, should they win the majority.

The party wants to renew and expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was created with bipartisan support in 1997 but is now, Democrats say, crippled by a lack of funding. Another priority is overturning President Bush’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

Resistance from the White House, most Congressional Republicans, and the pharmaceutical industry is anticipated. “The Democratic agenda on health care will be somewhat limited by the fact that George Bush is still president,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca) told the New York Times.

—Cat Vasko