Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003 - Continued

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: June 25, 2003
Location: Washington, DC

PRESCRIPTION DRUG AND MEDICARE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2003—CONTINUED

AMENDMENT NO. 948, AS MODIFIED

    Mr. GRAHAM of South Carolina. Mr. President, I offer this amendment with the hope we can negotiate a resolution and have it accepted as part of the package. The chairman of the committee has been very gracious in trying to bring that result about. Briefly, this amendment costs no money. The whole idea of reform in the bill is a new alternative traditional Medicare that will be created, called Medicare Advantage, to which people will gravitate, that allows preventive medicine practices that currently do not exist, bringing modernization to Medicare, making it more user friendly and cost effective. That is the goal of the bill, by creating a new option.

    Estimates range from 2 to 43 percent participation. For those looking for reform, the only vehicle for reform in this bill I can find is the idea of Medicare Advantage, and that is somewhat minimal.

    This amendment addresses the problem of "what if." What if in 2010, after 4 years of enactment of this bill, the traditional Medicare is the primary choice made? What if the Medicare Advantage Program does not receive 15-percent enrollment? If it has not achieved 15-percent enrollment, creating efficiency and modernization is going to be lost.

    This is the last time maybe in a generation to look at traditional Medicare and not only improve it for the senior citizen but improve it for their grandchildren who are going to have to pay for it.

    Traditional Medicare, as I understand this bill, is pretty much unaffected in terms of reforms. Having a prescription drug benefit can be a good idea because it emphasizes preventive medicine practices. Having prescription drugs reasonably available can keep people healthier longer and improve the quality of life and keep them out of the hospital and do a lot of good things. But Medicare is $13 trillion short of the money we need. This bill is going to be $4 trillion additional liability. This is a chance as a body to look at the structural problems that Medicare faces.

    We are increasing the age limit to 67 for Social Security eligibility. It seems to me that is a good idea given the fact people are living longer. I would like to do that with Medicare. I don't think that is oppressive. I think that is fair to grandparents and grandchildren. I believe we should have a means test. If we have a prescription drug benefit, I believe you should be asked to participate based on your ability to participate because $3 out of $4 coming into Medicare Part B comes from the General Treasury. It is truly a subsidized entitlement. These are the type of reforms I would like to see happen. I don't think they are going to happen. And the Medicare Advantage Program is the only alternative that has a reform element to it.

    My amendment says in 2010, after 4 years, if 15 percent of Medicare recipients are not enrolled in Medicare Advantage, if you cannot get 15 percent to pick Medicare Advantage—you get 2 years to reach 15 percent, January of 2012. If you have not achieved 15 percent by January 2012, it is a chance to have a fail-safe mechanism requiring a commission to be appointed. The President, the House, and the Senate would appoint nine members to this commission who would study and report back to Congress in a timely manner what would be needed at that point in time to save Medicare from bankruptcy to make sure it does not blow a hole in the budget and make sure it is efficiently run. This commission has 18 months to create a work product, legislation that comes back to the House and Senate, and we vote up or down on that legislation.

    This amendment will force in the future reforms that may not be achieved if we do not have adequate participation in Medicare Advantage. It takes the issue away from Congress in the sense of the commission is required to look at it and bring it back to Congress for our input and our vote. I believe we need an element like this in this entitlement bill because if we do not have a way down the road to take a second look at this program, we are all going to suffer greatly in this Nation.

    It costs no money. Hopefully, it will never have to happen. If we cannot get 15 percent of Medicare recipients to enroll in Medicare Advantage, there will be no way to reform this program. I hope we can find a resolution in a bipartisan fashion and this amendment will be accepted.

    I yield the floor.