Senate Democrats

DEMOCRATS CALL FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION TO FIX MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT

Washington, DC–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Senators Ted Kennedy, Jeff Bingaman, and Debbie Stabenow were joined by concerned seniors today as they called on President Bush to take immediate action to fix the widespread problems with the Medicare Drug program and to address these concerns during his State of the Union Address

The program, written by drug company lobbyists and poorly implemented by the Bush Administration, has forced seniors to choose from dozens of plans without adequate information, and in many cases into paying too much for their medication or not receiving it at all.

“Once again, the American people have paid the price for a Republican culture of corruption,” said Senator Reid. “The Republican Party gave the drug companies this Medicare bill, and now our seniors can’t get the medicine they need. In his State of the Union next week, the President needs to come clean and join Democrats in offering a real solution to this disastrous program.”

“It is clear that, like Katrina — despite the warnings – the Bush Administration was totally unprepared for the disaster that their drug plan created,” said Senator Kennedy. “Now it’s time for them to stop making excuses and work to get it right. Democrats fought for changes in the Medicare law to make it fair for seniors, and we’ll keep fighting to make those changes. I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact a fair, straightforward and effective drug program.”

“The problems with the Medicare prescription drug plan are numerous and have very serious health implications for millions of seniors and disabled Americans. In our view, Congress has no choice but to take swift action to fix them,” Senator Bingaman said.

The Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans have weakened America’s commitment to its seniors. Democrats are committed to making sure seniors and people with disabilities have access to the medicine they need, and have offered legislation to fix the problems. They urge President Bush to come clean with the American people in his State of the Union and support legislation and take administrative action to fix this program.

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THE STATE OF THE MEDICARE DRUG PROGRAM

Bush Must Show Leadership in his State of the Union Address

When it comes to the new drug benefit, Republicans favor special interests, like the drug and insurance industries, above those of seniors and people with disabilities whom Medicare is supposed to serve. The Administration’s implementation of the benefit has led to mass confusion, forcing seniors to navigate among dozens of private plans with inadequate information and looming late penalties. Even worse, many beneficiaries who enrolled or were supposed to be auto-enrolled paid too much for their prescriptions or left pharmacies without their drugs. While Republicans continue to play special interests politics with the new benefit, Democrats know that we can do better. For the benefit to work, we must act enact solutions that ensure seniors and people with disabilities are put first.

PRESIDENT BUSH MUST SUPPORT LEGISLATIVE ACTION:

Get Seniors their Drugs. Legislation must ensure that seniors and people with disabilities immediately receive the drugs they need at prices they can afford under the terms of coverage they have been promised. [S. 2183, the Requiring Emergency Pharmaceutical Access for Individual Relief Act]

Reimburse Seniors, States and Pharmacies. Legislation must also fully reimburse states, pharmacies, and beneficiaries who have been forced to pay more than they should have during this botched transition. This should be done without a complicated new bureaucracy so states can be reimbursed directly without forcing them to go to dozens of insurers and then navigate the red tape waiver process [S. 2183, the Requiring Emergency Pharmaceutical Access for Individual Relief Act]

Extend the Enrollment Period and Create Flexibility. Legislation must give seniors and people with disabilities the time they need to navigate the confusing enrollment process and allow them to change plans once during this first chaotic year. [S. 1841, the Medicare Informed Choice Act]

PRESIDENT BUSH MUST TAKE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION

Provide Accurate Information. The Administration has failed to provide plans, pharmacies, and beneficiaries with accurate information to make the drug program function as it should. The President must make accurate information, including consistent drug prices, a priority.

Enforce the Requirements in the Law. The President must reduce the number of plan choices by terminating the participation of any plan that fails to abide by requirements that beneficiaries receive their drugs under the terms of the Medicare program.

End the Inappropriate Marketing. The President must revise the loose marketing regulations that allow for misleading co-branding and unsolicited phone calls. Any plan that fails to abide by these rules should be terminated.

Keep the Drug Lists the Same. Beneficiaries are locked into the plans they choose for the full year. The President should require those plans to cover the drugs they say are on their formularies at the prices they advertise so beneficiaries don’t face a bait and switch.

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