Worried senior at Medicare drug benefit rally

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2004-08-29

The Medicare Prescription Drug Act passed in December 2003 is a travesty and should be repealed as quickly as possible and replaced with a new bill that will give all seniors truly affordable prescription drugs. That was the message stated by Lee Goodman, Democratic candidate for the US House of Representatives, this past Thursday at a noon rally in downtown Highland Park [IL]. Goodman's message and his analysis and critique of that very flawed bill came as a breath of fresh air to this worried senior after receiving our congressman Kirk's glossy mailings giving his assurances about the new bill providing that seniors now will have affordable prescription drugs.

But the new bill does nothing of the kind. Indeed, our congressman Kirk was on the very committee that drafted this defective legislation, and he should be held accountable. One of the major defects is that the bill prohibits Medicare from using its enormous purchasing power to negotiate with the drug companies for centralized discount prices -- as it does for the military, the Veterans Administration, and for almost everything else it purchases in volume -- the bill specifically prohibits that, virtually guaranteeing rapidly rising costs for seniors and for the taxpayer.

Another major negative is that the bill cuts off assistance after drug spending exceeds $2251, only to resume it when senior our-of-pocket spending exceeds the catastrophic amount of $5100, the famous "doughnut hole." To participate seniors must pay a $35 monthly premium plus a $250 yearly deductible and must continue to pay their premiums throughout.

Another element in the bill that is extremely injurious to seniors is the new cap set on the federal contribution to Medicare at about 45 percent, thus creating pressure to limit care, increase beneficiary costs, and require cuts or severe cuts in provider service. Much of these capped funds are now to go as an enormous subsidy to private insurance firms to "entice" them into providing health care, leading to eventual insolvency of the Medicare program as we know it.

These are some of the major negatives for seniors in the bill. There are more very serious shortcomings. Congressman Kirk has so far refused to answer the charges of his opponent Lee Goodman about this very flawed bill which he has helped to write.