Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi Statement on Introduction of Democratic Prescription Drug Plan

March 4, 2003


Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and 10 House Democrats held a news conference this morning to introduce the House Democrats’ prescription drug plan. Pelosi gave the following opening statement:

“Thank you all for coming. I want to thank my colleagues who have worked so hard for a meaningful prescription drug benefit. You have been outstanding leaders for America’s seniors. I’m so pleased that many of you are with us today -- Steny Hoyer, John Dingell, Pete Stark, Mike Ross, Henry Waxman, Sherrod Brown, George Miller, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, Lois Capps and Donna Christensen. And I want to commend one Member who could not be here today, the distinguished ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel.

“And thank you, Ron Pollack, my friend from Families USA and the representatives from so many groups representing seniors, consumers, and the disabled. We would not be here today without your magnificent leadership.

“The power of prescription drugs to cure disease and manage chronic illness is truly miraculous. Illnesses that required hospitalization and surgery when Medicare was created nearly 40 years ago -- or were untreatable -- can now be managed simply by taking a pill.

“A meaningful Medicare prescription drug benefit that guarantees access to these lifesaving medicines is long overdue. Unfortunately, millions of seniors and disabled Americans are still waiting.

“Today, Democrats are offering seniors the prescription drug benefit they deserve -- one that is comprehensive and affordable, without any gaps or gimmicks. Under our plan, meaningful help would be available for all Medicare beneficiaries, including those who choose to stay in the same Medicare program they have trusted for nearly 40 years.

“And our plan maintains the choices that matter most to the elderly and disabled - which doctor to go to and what pharmacy to use. “President Bush has proposed a different course. The meager benefit he is proposing, even with its coverage gaps and high out-of-pocket costs, won’t be available to the 89 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in the existing fee-for-service program.

“Those 35 million seniors will be forced to join an HMO or other private plan if they want anything more than a discount drug card that offers only minimal savings and catastrophic coverage that doesn’t kick in until seniors have already spent thousands of dollars out of their own pockets.

“President Bush may have revised the packaging, but the details are the same -- you can choose you own doctor or you can get help with the routine costs of medications, but you can’t have both.

“President Bush says that his plan will provide real help for seniors in the traditional Medicare program, but once again - the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality. The credibility gap widens.

“Seniors and the disabled deserve better. They deserve better than to be pushed into an HMO that may drop them. And they deserve better than a discount card and a promise.

“As we begin the debate on how to design a meaningful prescription drug plan, Democrats stand ready to deliver. We stand ready to ensure that miraculous prescription drugs are available - and affordable -- to everyone on Medicare.

“We stand ready to work with the President and Republicans in Congress on a meaningful Medicare prescription drug benefits that gives seniors real relief and real choices. It can be done, and it can be done this year.”


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