From the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
 

Pelosi: 'GOP's Alice in Wonderland Medicare Bill Turns Logic on its Head'

November 18, 2003

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke this morning on the floor of the House of Representatives in strong opposition to the Republican Medicare deal, which the House will vote on this week. Below are her remarks:

"Mr. Speaker, this should be an historic week in the life of our nation. Instead, it is a tragic week. We should be celebrating that Congress kept its promise to seniors and disabled Americans to provide a real, guaranteed, defined prescription drug benefit under Medicare.

"Instead, we are witnessing another Republican empty promise -- nothing short of an historic hoax on 40 million seniors and disabled Americans.

"Mr. Speaker, America’s seniors and disabled citizens have to look to Congress for help. Instead, Republicans have perpetrated a cruel hoax on seniors, proposing an Alice in Wonderland bill in which logic is turned on its head and everything means the opposite.

"A real guaranteed, defined prescription drug benefit under Medicare could have been the product of bipartisan debate and discussion. Instead, this Republican hoax is a partisan scheme rammed through the Congress and negotiated in the backroom.

"Republicans locked House Democrats out of the negotiations, or better yet: the deal-making. And in so doing, they locked out the 130 million Americans we represent -- seniors, veterans, disabled Americans, rural Americans, Africans Americans, Hispanic Americans. America’s seniors deserve better.

"A real guaranteed, defined prescription drug benefit under Medicare would put seniors and the disabled first. Instead, this Republican hoax subverts the public interest for the special interests -- putting seniors at the mercy of the HMOs, creating a giant slush fund for HMOs, and creating windfall profits for the big pharmaceutical companies. America’s seniors deserve better.

"A real guaranteed, defined prescription drug benefit under Medicare would reduce costs to seniors and taxpayers. Instead, this Republican hoax increases drug costs, actually prohibiting the government from negotiating lower prices. Imagine the bill prohibiting the government from negotiating lower prices. Republicans have instituted ‘means testing,’ for the first time forcing millions of seniors to pay more for benefits they already have. Make no mistake: under this scheme, millions of Medicare beneficiaries will pay more, not less. America’s seniors deserve better.

"A real guaranteed benefit under Medicare would lower costs and improve benefits for all seniors and disabled Americans. Instead, this Republican hoax leaves most seniors and the disabled worse off than before.

"According to the Congressional Budget Office, millions of retirees who get their benefits from their employers will lose their coverage. Nearly half of all Medicare beneficiaries, almost 20 million seniors and disabled Americans, will fall into the ‘coverage gap,’ meaning they will pay premiums every month, but receive no benefits in the final months of every year. A monthly premium without monthly benefits. America’s seniors deserve better.

"Finally, a real guaranteed prescription drug benefit under Medicare would be just that -- under Medicare, which seniors have known and trusted for nearly 40 years. Instead, this Republican hoax tries to dismantle and unravel Medicare with a voucher program that pushes seniors into HMOs.

"This is no longer a debate just about including a prescription drug benefit in Medicare. Republicans are trying to dismantle the Medicare program that seniors have known and trusted for nearly 40 years. And that is completely unacceptable.

"Republicans have been clear -- they want to kill Medicare and privatize it. During debate on the Republican bill this summer, the Republican Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Thomas, said: ‘To those who say that it would end Medicare as we know it, our answer is: we certainly hope so.’ As you know, the Republican leadership of this body has been on the record saying they want to see Medicare ‘wither on the vine,’ to use their words.

"Democrats have been equally clear -- we want to save Medicare and protect it. America’s seniors see through the Republican rhetoric. This is not the beginning of a real prescription drug benefit under Medicare; this is the beginning of the end of Medicare as we know it. America’s seniors deserve better.

"Mr. Speaker, our seniors are smart. They see through this Republican hoax for what it truly is and for what it is not. It does not put seniors and disabled Americans first. It does not reduce costs. And it does not improve benefits for all seniors and disabled Americans. And it is not under Medicare. In short, this Republican hoax is not the real, guaranteed, defined prescription drug benefit under Medicare that our seniors want, that they need, and that they deserve.

"Mr. Speaker, our seniors deserve better. They are the Greatest Generation. They fought our wars. They came home and raised our families. They built a new America. The prosperity and quality of life that we enjoy today is owed to their lives of hard work and sacrifice.

"But today, seniors and disabled Americans are asking, ‘Why? Why is the wealthiest nation in human history not keeping faith with its seniors -- the citizens who built this country?’

"The answer is simple: priorities. Republicans have different priorities. A few Republicans behind closed doors made deals that would rather give massive tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans than give a real prescription drug benefit to our seniors who desperately need it.

"If I can paraphrase Winston Churchill, never in American history have so few worked so hard to take away so much from so many. That is the Republican back-door deal-making.

"Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote against this Republican hoax. And I urge them to demand that Congress keep working to keep its promise to our seniors, by providing the real, guaranteed, defined prescription drug benefit under Medicare that our seniors want, need, and deserve."



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