WASHINGTON – Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the Committee on Ways and Means – along with Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Democrat, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) – today offered a substitute to the Republican Medicare legislation (H.R. 1) that would add an affordable, comprehensive prescription drug benefit to Medicare for millions of Americans.
Key aspects of the Rangel-Dingell legislation:
Affordable - Premiums would be $25 a month with a $100 deductible and 20% co-insurance. Unlike the House Republican bill, the plan contains no gap in coverage and no senior would ever pay more than $2000 out-of-pocket for their drugs.
Meaningful - Unlike the House Republican bill, the plan’s benefit are defined, guaranteed, and the same everywhere. The House Republican bill would put millions of seniors in rural areas at a disadvantage and place all seniors at the mercy of private insurers to get any drug coverage at all.
Pro-Medicare – The Rangel-Dingell bill entitles seniors and people with disabilities to a drug benefit under traditional Medicare. That’s why the Republicans are so dead-set against it because they want to see Medicare shrink rather than become stronger. In fact, by 2010, the House Republican bill turns Medicare into a voucher program - splitting up the traditional Medicare program seniors trust into ten separate pieces, drastically increasing costs for some of our most vulnerable Americans.
Lowers the Price of Prescription Drug – While the House Republican bill specifically prohibits an Administration from negotiating better drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, the Rangel-Dingell bill gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to use the collective purchasing power of Medicare’s beneficiaries to lower drug prices.
Rep. Rangel said: “Democrats propose to spend less than a third of all of the money that the Bush Administration wants for tax cuts and provide a guaranteed, affordable, and easy to understand benefit for all seniors. The Republicans say it is too expensive for them to give the kind of prescription drug coverage that seniors say they need. But if the Republicans were willing to give up just one-tenth of their 3½ trillion tax cut agenda, that would cover the difference between the cost of our meaningful substitute and the cost of the Republican health legislation considered today.”
Rep. Dingell said: "Republicans say our bill costs too much. Well, last week our Republican colleagues voted for a bill to make permanent the repeal of the estate tax on the wealthiest people in this country. Budget estimates suggest that in the second decade when that permanent repeal kicks in, it will cost the Treasury $800 billion. Other tax cuts have been of similar or greater magnitude. It is just a matter of choices. Do we put our priorities on helping 10,000 of the wealthiest people in our society or on providing a helping hand to 40 million seniors who need this help so badly?"
Rep. Rangel continued: “During the Bush Administration, we have seen a $9 trillion negative turnaround in the nation’s budget. Under Republican tax and spending policies, the deficit this year is projected to be over $400 billion, and it will approach $500 billion in 2004. Now, the Republicans want to place the bill for their irresponsible budget on the backs of America’s seniors.”
“When the greatest generation tells us that they need help paying for prescription drugs and they want it to be a part of traditional Medicare, the Republicans say that all the money ran out. We owe to those who have worked hard and paid into Medicare all of their lives to give them the reliable and affordable prescription drug coverage they deserve. The Republicans short-change our seniors, but always find more money for tax cuts for the wealthy and for special interests.”