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News Briefs 1

GOPLeaders Offer Plan to Restrict Medicare Spending

Los Angeles Times

House Republican leaders offered a blueprint Thursday for keeping Medicare solvent by steadily increasing out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries and setting severe new limits on government payments to doctors and hospitals.

The most affluent elderly - individuals with incomes of at least $75,000 and couples with more than $150,000 - would be forced to bear a hefty increase in their monthly premiums. For the rest, the typical Medicare recipient would pay about $90 a month by 2002 for the insurance that covers doctors' bills, compared with $46.10 now.

In an attempt to avoid antagonizing elderly voters, Republicans went elsewhere for the bulk of the total savings - $270 billion over the next seven years - to rescue Medicare and help balance the federal budget.

They said they expected substantial savings as millions of persons moved into health maintenance organizations and other forms of managed care.

But they proposed no direct incentives or pressures on recipents to switch from visiting the doctors of their choice to enrolling in health plans that would limit their choice. Contrary to expectations, they did not propose to add to the elderly's share of payments to doctors.

The biggest share of savings would come from a strict system of annual, government-set ceilings on Medicare payments to hospitals, doctors, home health care agencies and laboratories. If spending exceeded the goal in any year, the government would cut payments to health care providers in the following year.

Study Finds AZTLess Effective

The Washington Post

For people infected with the AIDS virus, AZT, the oldest and most widely prescribed drug for the disease, is less effective than an alternative drug or than treatments that combine AZT with either of two other AIDS drugs, a new government study has found.

The study, involving almost 2,500 patients whose immune systems had been moderately damaged by the virus, is likely to change the current recommendation that doctors treating AIDS patients should turn first to AZT, which was the first drug approved to treat the infection, said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"I think it's going to have an important effect on practice," said Fauci.

Fauci said the study also is significant because it is the first study to show that in people with early HIV infection, a drug or combination of drugs can improve survival or slow progression to AIDS.

Embassy Attack Called Terrorism

Los Angeles Times

Russian police on Thursday deemed a grenade attack against the American Embassy an act of terrorism and stepped up security during a diplomatic fence-mending visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.

Kremlin outrage over NATO air strikes against Serb rebels in Bosnia-Herzegovina had inflicted serious strain on U.S.-Russian relations, and the current atmosphere of acrimony has been linked by some politicians and observers to Wednesday's rocket-propelled grenade blast at the embassy. A Russian envoy declined to say whether he thought the round fired at the embassy a day earlier was connected with recent tensions between the two nations.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, in which no one was injured, but the Moscow district prosecutor's office opened a criminal investigation into what it was classifying as a terrorist act.