WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and senior advocacy groups today attacked the controversial and complicated House Republican Medicare plan, which will force seniors to leave doctors they trust and will not guarantee benefits or premiums. The following is Rep. Hoyer’s statement as prepared for delivery:
“Later today – or possibly in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow, which is when this GOP leadership tries to hide votes on its most controversial proposals – the House Republicans plan to take up a prescription drug bill that will turn Medicare into maybe-care.
“Let all of America be clear: the House Republicans’ prescription drug bill is an unflinching betrayal of America’s seniors – the greatest generation, the generation who fought for freedom and who made this nation what it is today. Thirty-eight years after Democrats fought to create Medicare, the Republican Party can still barely contain its disdain for the program that America’s seniors have come to rely on for peace of mind.
“Yesterday, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Bill Thomas, said on MSNBC and I quote:
‘To those who say that [the bill] would end Medicare as we know it, our answer is: we certainly hope so.’
“Senator Rick Santorum, the Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told the New York Times on May 21: ‘I believe the standard benefit, the traditional Medicare program, has to be phased out.’
“Given the Republican Party’s hostility toward Medicare, it should surprise no one that house Republicans will offer a prescription drug bill that seeks to privatize Medicare, forcing our seniors out of traditional Medicare and into the arms of private insurance companies in the name of modernization.
“The GOP’s plan fails to guarantee a defined premium and fails to ensure that prescription drugs will even be affordable. Insurers would be able to vary their benefit levels and prices around the country, and limit access to specific drugs.
“The GOP bill also leaves a huge gap in coverage. Once seniors pay $250 a year, they then pay 20 percent co-insurance for up to $2,000 in drug spending. And here’s the kicker: there is no assistance – not one dime – between $2,000 and $5,100 in drug spending. That’s right: seniors pay all the costs between $2,000 and $5,100.
“This bill fails to guarantee the same benefits for the 9.2 million seniors living in rural areas. It fails to provide adequate coverage for low-income seniors. It fails to provide lower drug prices. In fact, it even prohibits the government from negotiating lower prices for seniors.
“Democrats say enough is enough. Our seniors deserve a prescription drug benefit under Medicare that is guaranteed, affordable, universal and voluntary, with set costs and benefits.
“We will fight on the house floor today for our substitute, offered by Charlie Rangel and John Dingell, which provides a real, meaningful drug benefit under Medicare.
“Under our substitute, seniors pay a set $25 monthly premium, a $100 deductible and then 20 percent co-insurance. There are no gaps in coverage under our plan. We also provide additional funds for rural providers and would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to negotiate fair prices for Medicare’s 40 million beneficiaries.
“I urge America’s seniors: sit down at your kitchen table, and calculate which plan is better for you. You will see that this Republican bill is nothing but an untested placebo that will leave you feeling no better about your drug costs than you do today.”