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Sham Prescription Drug Benefit Would End Medicare
Please contact your senators and representative as soon as possible to urge them to oppose a phony prescription drug benefit that would harm women and spell the demise of Medicare.
The Bush administration and Congressional Republican leadership are steam-rolling sham prescription drug benefit proposals through both the House and Senate. The proposals do not make prescriptions any more affordable for low and moderate income senior citizens, leave seniors at the mercy of managed care plans, and won't take effect until 2006 (well after the 2004 elections!) These bills do nothing to address the high cost of prescription drugs. Even more appalling is the predictable outcome if this legislation is adopted: the dismantling of the Medicare program, starting in 2010!
Medicare is one of our most important social programs for millions of seniors and disabled persons. Most of the 40 million people covered by Medicare would be harmed by privatizing the program and having to pay more, yet receive less. Older women would especially be harmed by these changes because of their heavier dependence on prescription medications and higher rates of chronic illness.
Members of your Congressional delegation need to hear that this approach is totally unacceptable. Even if you aren't a senior citizen yet, you eventually will be one. Please send your message to Congress now.
George W. Bush and right-wing Republicans are ramming through Congress legislation to destroy the federal Medicare program under the guise of providing seniors a prescription drug benefit. Their plan is to entice seniors to leave the traditional Medicare program and enroll in private managed care plans in order to get a subsidized prescription drug benefita very poor one. The federal government would subsidize the private managed care programs, but would leave the eligibility, premium amounts and reimbursement determinations up to the companies. It is, in effect, a scheme to enrich private insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers, many of whom are generous contributors to Bush. At the same time, the Republican plan would dramatically reduce federal spending on health care coverage for the most vulnerable and would forestall efforts to control the escalating cost of prescription drugs.
Details of the bills have just been released, so few members of Congress are aware of the provisions, yet the House mark-up sessions on H.R. 1 are taking place this week to be followed shortly by floor votes. On the Senate side, the Finance Committee approved S. 1, the Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003, and a two-week debate on the legislation has begun. Both proposals spell a profound change in this 38-year-old social insurance program that has proven to be successful (though not perfect) in extending health care coverage to seniors who otherwise would go without. Medicare is especially important for women, as older women tend to live longer, with fewer financial resources and more chronic health problems. To lose traditional Medicare in order to get a sham prescription drug benefit would be a disaster for many thousands of older women just getting by on very modest incomes.
The Senate Bill (S. 1, sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.) was passed out of the Finance Committee last week by a vote of 16-5. It would fund the prescription drug benefit at $400 billion over 10 yearsa woefully inadequate amount. To get the subsidized prescription benefit, seniors and disabled persons would have to leave the Medicare program and join a managed care plan. They would pay a $35 per month premium, a $275 annual deductible and a 50 percent co-payment for each prescription filled.
According to an analysis by the Older Women's League (OWL), there is a gap in coverage from $4,500 up through $5,800 in out of pocket prescription costs where seniors would have to continue paying premiums but receive NO benefits. After $5,800 in annual prescription drug expenses for a senior or disabled person, beneficiaries will receive a 90 percent benefit with 10 percent co-pays for the rest of their prescription drugs for that year. Coverage for prescription drugs would be through private insurers and there would be no uniformity plans with the possibility of the plans changing every two years.
Older people, living on restricted incomes and facing increasingly higher prescription drug costs, deserve better. Older women, especially, who have been penalized over their working lives by pay discrimination and uncompensated care giving, will be disadvantaged by the Republican approach. Please contact your senators and representative today to urge them to oppose these regressive bills.
For more information:Medicare Watch, a project of The Century Foundation
A Place at the Table: Women's Needs and Medicare Reform