Dangerous Medicare Bill Moves Forward

June 19, 2003

Both the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives are moving quickly to produce a Medicare reform bill before the summer Congressional recess. Pressure has been building over the past two decades to grapple with the problems and shortcomings associated with Medicare, the federal program providing health insurance for retired Americans. Medicare benefits have deteriorated in recent years, costs have skyrocketed, and the lack of any prescription drug coverage for seniors is an ongoing national disgrace.

The Republican Congressional majority - joined by President Bush - are promoting a phoney and risky Medicare “reform” scheme that claims to provide prescription drug coverage for seniors. The legislation might result in the loss of existing drug coverage for as many as 37 percent of retirees, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The current Republican proposal would force Medicare participants to purchase private drug insurance coverage for a $35 monthly premium, with an additional annual $275 deductible. Prescriptions would then be covered at 50% up to a yearly $4,500 maximum. After reaching $5,800, retirees would pay 10% of drug costs. Organized labor is fearful that the passage of this legislation would trigger the mass cancellation of existing retiree prescription benefits by companies that still provide this critical coverage. The legislation also provides for no cost controls to limit the skyrocketing price increases and profit margins of the pharmaceutical industry.

Senate and House Democrats have pushed feverishly to improve the miserable benefit levels in the Republican bill and to reduce out-of-pocket costs. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, commented; “The Republican bill is not a drug benefit bill at all. It is yet another promise of “bribes” to private insurers’ to try to coax them to offer drug insurance policies.”

Make your voice heard on this critical bill; visit www.unionvoice.org/campaign/rxdrugs for more information and suggestions to take action. Call your Senators and Representatives also at (202)224-3121. Demand that lawmakers craft a final bill that provides affordable drug coverage for Medicare participants with no deductibles, co-payments, or yearly maximums.