–Will Introduce Legislation to Fix Crisis for America’s Seniors –
Washington, DC - At a Senate press conference today on addressing the needs of the hundreds of thousands of low-income seniors who have been victimized by the flawed Medicare prescription drug program, Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Debbie Stabenow and Senator Hillary Clinton joined together to unveil legislation that will be introduced tomorrow to ensure that all seniors and disabled persons receive the drugs they need and are entitled to.
“Senate Democrats saw the writing on the wall, and we tried to fix this problem,” said Senator Rockefeller. “But we couldn’t get the fix through because Republicans blocked our efforts at every turn. Simply put, Republicans put the politics of the Medicare drug program over the need of millions of American seniors. Since our predictions then of what would happen wasn’t enough to sway Republicans to protect seniors, I hope that the heartbreaking stories that we are seeing now will be enough to finally sway them to follow our lead and take action to fix this crisis.”
“The horror stories coming from my state since the rollout of the Medicare plan are simply heartbreaking. These failures in the Medicare system display a tragic incompetence. Lifesaving drugs are being denied to deserving people across the country,” said Senator Lautenberg.
For several years, Senate Democrats had warned about an impending crisis that would begin with the Medicare prescription drug program’s inception on January 1, particularly for low-income seniors and the disabled. However, Republicans almost unanimously thwarted their legislative efforts to fix this crisis, relying on the administration’s claim that the transition would be seamless.
“This Medicare bill is the biggest government fiasco in recent memory. Not only is the Medicare bill confusing, and nearly impossible to navigate, but it’s now costing states hundreds of millions of dollars for low income seniors who fell through the bureaucratic cracks,” said Senator Schumer.
“Instead of helping seniors, the new Medicare drug program has made it more difficult for them. One of my constituents actually had to call my office from the pharmacy to get the medicine she needed. These problems are not surprising, since this prescription drug plan was written by the pharmaceutical industry and put their needs ahead of seniors and families,” said Senator Stabenow. “We will keep fighting to put Americans first and fix the problems with this program.”
“Our legislation will make the fixes I have been calling for to the broken Medicare prescription drug benefit. We owe it to our seniors and disabled Americans to get this right and I will keep fighting to make sure that we do,” said Senator Clinton.
The Democratic legislation would:
- Require all prescription drug plans to provide new enrollees with at least 30 days of prescription drugs during their transition to Medicare.
- Provide federal reimbursement for states, pharmacies, and beneficiaries for out-of-pocket costs because the Medicare prescription drug benefit has failed to cover their costs.
- Require CMS to have one dedicated employee stationed at every Senior Health Insurance Plan site to assist beneficiaries and counselors — and to act as a liaison for oversight and enforcement of the prescription drug benefit.
- Require the spending of necessary resources to reduce the wait times on calls to 1-800-Medicare.