- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 12, 2003

GOP prods Bush on Medicare bill

Dozens of conservative House Republicans urged President Bush yesterday to insist that any compromise on Medicare prescription-drug legislation allow private insurance to compete directly with the government-run program in providing health care for seniors.

The letter, signed by 76 lawmakers, also urged Mr. Bush to make sure the final measure allows creation of individual, tax-advantaged savings accounts to pay for health care costs.

The lawmakers said including the two provisions was “vitally important” — the first one to help stabilize the program’s long-term finances, the other to “help younger generations prepare for future health care costs in retirement.”

One of the provisions would require the traditional Medicare program to compete directly with private plans beginning in 2010. Supporters said that would lead Medicare beneficiaries to choose the private plans, which they argue would be less costly, more efficient and better able to adapt quickly to changes in medical science.

Jessica Lynch set to return home

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former Army POW Jessica Lynch is expected to be out of the hospital and back home in West Virginia by the end of the month, a family spokesman said yesterday.

Family spokesman Randy Coleman said doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center said Pfc. Lynch could be released in two weeks.

“Early on, there was a lot of pain,” hospital spokeswoman Beverly Chidel said. “Now she’s looking better; she’s upbeat and she’s very talkative.”

Volunteers have worked since April remodeling the family home in Palestine, about 70 miles north of Charleston, to make it handicapped-accessible. Pfc. Lynch still uses a walker to get around.

Penalty is requested for medical marijuana

The Bush administration, pressing its campaign against state medical marijuana laws, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let federal authorities punish California doctors who recommend pot to their patients.

The administration would revoke the federal prescription licenses of doctors who tell their patients marijuana would help them, a prerequisite for obtaining the drug under the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law.

Justice Department lawyers this week asked the high court to take up the issue in its next term, which begins in October.

USDA employees use money freely

Agriculture Department employees used government credit cards to pay tuition for bartender school, to buy Ozzy Osbourne concert tickets, lingerie and tattoos and to make a down payment on a car.

A random audit by the department’s inspector general of just 300 of the 55,000 department employees who carry the government credit cards showed they had charged $7.7 million in personal purchases in a six-month period from Oct. 1, 2001, to March 31, 2002.

The auditors found the department has no policy for disciplining workers over the misuse of cards, which are intended to cover travel expenses.

From wire service dispatches and staff reports

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