Senate Democrats

Reid Statement on Changes to Take Effect Within Medicare Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Harry Reid released the following statement today on changes soon to take effect within the Medicare program.

“I have always supported adding a drug benefit to Medicare, but Republican leaders are favoring the best interests of HMOs and drug companies over providing the maximum assistance to seniors and people with disabilities.

“As a result, the drug coverage the Bush Administration is touting today will actually cause a great deal of confusion. Each private insurer will design its own benefit, including gaps in coverage and considerable variations between plans. Even worse, the creation of this new benefit jeopardizes existing coverage — retirees may lose the good drug coverage they have because of the new benefit, and Nevadans currently on Medicaid may face increased cost-sharing under the Medicare benefit.

“Although this is not the program I would have designed, we are stuck with it, and beneficiaries need to take a serious look at whether it is in their best interests to enroll. There will be many decisions, and I stand ready to help seniors get the information they need to make the right choices.

“Although some may be left behind, seniors and people with disabilities who qualify for additional assistance based on their income will benefit from the new coverage. Seniors and people with disabilities who received applications in the mail for this additional, income-based assistance should complete and return those applications.

“As I help to ensure people have the information they need to decide, I will continue to fight for legislative improvements to the program and strong oversight of its implementation. First and foremost, we must change the current law so that Medicare can actually use the power of its 42 million beneficiaries to negotiate lower prices. That’s just a common sense way to ensure that seniors are getting the best possible medicines at the most competitive prices.