WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today regarding the House Republican prescription drug bill that is expected to be approved by the two committees of jurisdiction by the end of this week (Ways and Means on Tuesday and Energy and Commerce today):
“Democrats fought to create Medicare in 1965, and the program has been critical to seniors’ health ever since. And now we are fighting for an affordable, guaranteed prescription drug benefit under Medicare that all seniors can count on regardless of where they live.
“On the other hand, the Republican Party has always been opposed to Medicare, and the drug plan the House GOP is pushing is its latest attempt to dismantle the program altogether. The House GOP’s drug plan is completely confusing. It would force seniors to continue to pay a large portion of their drug bills, and leave them at the mercy of private insurers who may or may not choose to cover them. Seniors have been burned once before by private plans in the Medicare+Choice program. For example, eight Medicare HMOs covered over 100,000 Maryland seniors in 1997. By 2002, those insurers had all abandoned Maryland seniors.
“Under the House Republican bill there are no guarantees that a senior will be covered, much less pay less for the drugs they need to live than they do now. The $35 premium that Republicans toss around as a part of their plan is nothing more than an estimate. Republicans would give insurance companies the power to determine how much seniors will pay. And the Republican bill would effectively privatize Medicare in 2010, turning over to insurance companies a program that tens of millions seniors depend on under the guise of ‘modernization.’
“This debate crystallizes the different priorities of Democrats and Republicans. The House GOP chose tax cuts - $600 billion this year alone – over a comprehensive, affordable prescription drug benefit for seniors. America’s seniors were essentially an afterthought for them.
“Democrats want to get something done on this issue and we are going to fight to give seniors what they expect and deserve – a real prescription drug benefit under Medicare – and we will fight against the Republicans’ confusing and inadequate plan.”