HOYER: MEDICARE BILL IS A BLATANT BETRAYAL OF SENIORS

For Immediate Release:

November 19, 2003

Contact:Stacey Farnen
202-225-3130

WASHINGTON D.C. – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) today joined members of the American Nurses Association at a press conference in voicing opposition to the Republican Medicare bill, which undermines the protections Medicare provides for America’s seniors, leaves a glaring gap in coverage, and could result in higher drug prices for the elderly.  The following is Rep. Hoyer’s statement as prepared for delivery:

“It used to be that Republicans were open and honest about their desire to eliminate the bedrock program that has ensured health care for America’s seniors since 1965.

“Remember Newt Gingrich?  he didn’t mince words in 1995.  He said: “We believe it’s going to wither on the vine because we think people are going to voluntarily leave it.”  And even today, while many Republicans try to hide their animosity toward Medicare, some have a hard time repressing what’s really in their hearts.

“In May, Rick Santorum, the third-ranking member on the Republican Senate leadership team, told the New York Times:  “I believe the standard benefit, the traditional Medicare program, has to be phased out.”

“Well, today, the Republican Party is closer than ever to realizing its long-sought goal – forcing America’s seniors into private insurance plans and dismantling the Medicare program.  We are here today to deliver one simple message: we are going to fight you every step of the way.

“The Republican conference report that will soon be on the House floor is a classic bait and switch.  On one hand, it offers seniors a feeble prescription drug benefit.  For example, a senior with $3,500 in annual drug costs will still pay 70% of the cost!  This is an insult to our seniors.  It plays them for fools.  And we believe the Members who vote for this conference report will rue the day that they did.

“Democrats have been fighting to add a prescription drug benefit for years.  But Republicans have hijacked this effort.  They’re using this conference report to push through a so-called “demonstration project” that would force Medicare to compete with managed care plans.  It would prohibit – yes, prohibit – the Secretary of Health and Human Services from negotiating lower drug

prices on behalf of Medicare’s beneficiaries.  This Republican conference report is a blatant betrayal of America’s seniors.

“It’s true: AARP’s leadership here in Washington has endorsed it, although many seniors’ groups are opposed.  But the chief executive officer of AARP, Bill Novelli, admitted on national television last night:  “We’re hearing from members. We’re getting a lot of phone calls.  The majority of phone calls so far have been critical.”

“To America’s seniors, I say: keep on calling.  To AARP.  And to your member of Congress.  Tell them to oppose this conference report.  That is precisely what the war room House Democrats are establishing here today is about: Getting the message out that this conference report fundamentally breaches this nation’s promise to America’s seniors.”

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