Today, House Republicans start action on their Medicare prescription drug plan. Medicare beneficiaries have waited a long time for help, but unfortunately, this legislation falls far short of what seniors and disabled Americans have been waiting for.
Democrats believe that any Medicare prescription drug benefit must be:
--Affordable - with reasonable premiums and deductibles - designed to significantly
reduce the price of prescription drugs;
--Meaningful - with defined, guaranteed benefits - no gaps or gimmicks;
--Within the Medicare program - not a separate privatized plan that lets HMOs make all the decisions about costs and benefits;
--Available to all seniors and disabled Americans on Medicare no matter where they live -- rural or urban -- or what their incomes are.
Sadly, the House Republican bill does not offer a defined, guaranteed prescription drug benefit, and does not do anything to hold down the price of prescription drugs.
It contains a coverage gap so wide that 50 percent of seniors would fall into it -- paying whatever an HMO saw fit to charge them while receiving no help at all.
The inevitable conclusion, as the Consumers Union report explains, is that under the House Republican bill, most Medicare beneficiaries will be worse off in 2007 than they are today.
What does the Republican bill do? It turns Medicare over to HMOs. It disadvantages million of seniors in rural areas. It turns Medicare into a voucher program -- splitting up the traditional Medicare program seniors trust into 10 separate pieces, and telling our most vulnerable Americans that they need to pay more to stay in the Medicare program they trust.
As we work to provide seniors and the disabled with the real Medicare prescription drug benefit they have been asking for, it is helpful to have experts like Gail Shearer to give us the facts.
With that I would like to introduce Gail Shearer of Consumers Union.
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