INTRODUCTION OF H.R. 2746 -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 07, 2005)
HON. RUSH D. HOLT
OF NEW JERSEY
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, JUNE 7, 2005
Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, in his State of the Union address on February 27, 2001, President George W. Bush stood in these very chambers and correctly stated, "No senior in America should have to choose between buying food and buying prescriptions." Unfortunately, two years later, Congress passed a bill that did not solve that problem.
The Medicare Modernization Act fails to protect the eligibility of low-income seniors for other Federal assistance programs. The statute mandates that use of the transitional discount drug cards will not affect eligibility for Federal assistance programs, like food stamps. However, such protection is not extended to the permanent prescription drug benefit, which will be fully implemented on January 1, 2006.
On May 4, 2005, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) notified potential beneficiaries of the Medicare low-income subsidy that they may qualify for extra help paying prescription costs. However, this potential extra help comes with a caveat: If you qualify for extra help, your food stamps may decline. Recipients of the minimum food stamp benefit will see their benefits end.
It is unconscionable to offer a "low-income subsidy" that is contingent on beneficiaries forgoing another necessary commodity. The lowest income seniors should not have to choose between getting help with their expenses for prescription drugs or food.
Today, I introduced H.R. 2746, legislation that would fix this problem with the Medicare Modernization Act. It is a simple correction that extends to the permanent drug benefit the same protection for Federal assistance program eligibility provided in the transitional drug benefit. I encourage Members to support this bill.
Congress and the Bush Administration have repeatedly affirmed that low-income seniors should not have to choose between food and prescription drugs. Our actions as a body have not lived up to that commitment. Congress should act quickly to fix this flaw in the Medicare Modernization Act so that the most vulnerable among us are not faced with an impossible choice.