DEMOCRATS VOTE TO PROVIDE AFFORDABLE Rx DRUG BENEFIT TO ALL SENIORS, URGE REPUBLICANS TO DO THE SAME

For Immediate Release:

July 14, 2003

Contact:Stacey Farnen
202-225-3130

WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today in support of the Democratic Motion to Instruct Conferees on the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill.  The motion would instruct conferees to support the Senate-passed provision requiring a federal “fallback” prescription drug benefit to protect all seniors, and reject turning Medicare into an expensive, undependable voucher program.

“This Democratic Motion to Instruct Conferees recognizes what the ideologues on the other side of the aisle refuse to admit: turning Medicare into a voucher program will only encourage private insurers to skim the healthiest seniors, leaving Medicare to cover the sickest, most disabled beneficiaries.

 “Vouchers are nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to end Medicare – our nation’s bedrock commitment to America’s seniors for the last 38 years.  This motion instructs conferees to reject the provision in the House bill that would turn Medicare into a voucher program in 2010.  Furthermore, it instructs conferees to accept the Senate-passed provisions requiring a federal ‘fallback’ prescription drug benefit.  Under the Senate bill, if at least two private plans are not available to seniors, the federal government would offer beneficiaries a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

 “Let’s not turn a blind eye to reality.  Insurers are not lining up to provide prescription drug-only policies.  In fact, they have expressed great wariness about the Republican plan.  They are in business to make money, as is their right.  And they won’t hesitate to drop customers who file too many claims or cost them too much.

“That has been our painful experience with Medicare + Choice – in which more than two million seniors have been abandoned by HMOs seeking higher profits.  And as any homeowner can tell you, that is the experience in that line of insurance, too.  You might think you’re in good hands with your insurance company – but if you file a claim you might just find that those hands wave bye-bye.  You might think that you have a good neighbor in your insurance company – but if you file a claim you might just find that your good neighbor has moved away without leaving a forwarding address.

 “Given our experience with private insurers, we have a duty to guarantee that the federal government offers a fallback prescription drug benefit.  That is precisely what this motion instructs.”

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