MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION PART D DRUG PLAN -- (House of Representatives - November 15, 2005)
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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey), my good friend, for yielding to me; and I actually came down here because, Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey) is probably one of the people that has dedicated more time and effort to the health care issues that affect the American public than any other Member of this Congress.
On many occasions, he has educated me on health care issues and given me good advice and good counsel on how we need to make health care available, because the health of our Nation is very important to the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey) and all Members of this House on both sides of the aisle. We battle and toil with how exactly we are going to address health care issues.
I really wanted to start and come down here and share with the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey) an absolutely true event that happened to me personally; I guess by now it is probably almost 2 years ago or maybe even better. It was right after I was blessed to join this august body.
I was back home in my district, and I was back at my pharmacy, that I am not going to advertise for, but where I regularly buy my prescription drugs. I was standing in line for my turn to get prescription drugs, and I am sure people have told this story that I never had actually experienced, a story like this, until I heard the story.
There was a lady that was at that time being waited on by the pharmacist there at the counter and getting her prescription drugs, and they brought them to her. She was getting two prescriptions as I recall, one for herself and one for her husband. I do not know how old this lady was, but she was clearly on Social Security because she said so. This was when we were still working on trying to come up with a prescription drug benefit that would help our senior citizens.
She asked the pharmacist how much the two prescriptions were going to be. The price was very expensive for both of the drugs that she was going to have to pay, and between the two drugs, it was going to add up to, as I recall, over $500 for these prescriptions. She told the pharmacist, well, I cannot get these two prescriptions and continue to feed my husband and me on what we have to live on; I am just not going to be able to do it. Would it be possible that I could get half of the prescription?
The pharmacist said, well, ma'am, the one for you was obviously for something that had come upon her. The other was an ongoing prescription for her husband, the way I understood it. He said, your doctor has a reason he wants you to have this whole prescription. It may have been an antibiotic or something like that. I am not in the medical profession, but the pharmacist clearly said you need to take all of this prescription; you just cannot take half. Well, she said, ma'am, I just cannot spend that kind of money and take care of my family.
When you heard that, when you actually heard that from a human being, you said to yourself, we have got to do something to get some relief for people like this lady that was standing there. I was two people back from her in line, and what I heard that day from that lady touched my heart to where I really felt like I had seen the crisis firsthand.
We have now put together Medicare part D, as my colleague from Georgia has been explaining and will be able to explain in far better detail than I can as to what the benefits are for this, but we have now got a solution for that lady who was standing in line, and it is now time for people to start going out and getting signed up for Medicare part D. That is why I wanted to come join my colleague tonight in the hopes that people in my district and people across this entire country will hear our message that the time is here. We have arrived at the time when they need to go down and register to get involved in Medicare part D. And benefits will actually start, as Mr. Gingrey has explained, in January of 2006.
Now, I have traveled my district and I hold town hall meetings, and a lot of our senior citizens are concerned about, well, this seems so complicated, I do not know whom to turn to. And we are here to let the people know this is important to them and their loved ones. There are people there to assist them.
I would ask the families of those Medicare recipients that need help, sometimes as we grow into our later years, little things become big things to folks like my parents, who now are deceased, but I can remember when they become big things for them as we grow older. And I would hope that the families of these people along with these folks will encourage them to go look into getting registered, getting set up in a plan.
There are multiple plans that are offered. There are people there to help them understand those plans. There are people to tell them what fits their life, their life-style, where they come from, and I would hope not only those people who are going to be eligible for the program but those people who have folks in their family that will be eligible for the program will encourage them to go down and talk to folks, get the help, get signed up.
It is not as complicated as people think it is. There is a lot of fear that is unwarranted fear of this program. It happens on everything we do. When we deal with the government in many areas in our lives, dealing with the government is a frightening thing, dealing with plans and paperwork. This is cut down to where it is not going to be that hard to understand the plans.
There are people there to look at what people's circumstances are and tell them and show them which plans offer them the best options. Every State except Alaska has a State plan, as I recall. There are regional plans, and there are 10 nationwide plans that are available. There are multiple options that they can talk to them about. People can talk to their pharmacists. Medicare has people that will help them.
Call that number, 1-800-Medicare, and they will explain how to sign up. It is so important to your family. Do not let a little fear or a new world attitude that you do not understand keep you from getting signed up for a benefit. Because this is going to be able to assist all Americans in their health care needs, and it is especially going to be of great assistance to those people who are in the lower economic sector of our country. In most instances, those people who make, I think, $11,500 as an individual and $22,000 as a couple, they are basically not going to have hardly any Medicare costs for drugs. So it is important that you not let the fear of a new program or something you might have seen on television or some political rhetoric that was in some campaign somewhere that got you concerned that you would not be able to understand what the program is about to keep you from getting what you need so that you never have to be like that lady who stood in line in front of me and have to make a decision as to whether you took your medicine.
Does my colleague know what was really loving about that story? There was no question she was going to buy her husband's medicine. She never even blinked on that. She was saying, I will give up so we can live our life here what I need, but of course there is no question I am buying the medicine for my husband.
That kind of love permeates American society, and I think we have a duty to our loved ones who are eligible for Medicare to help them and encourage them to go get signed up for this. Because Americans do care about their elderly. Americans do care about those senior citizens who have given all that they had for us today. It is time for us to give them the benefits that they need so they do not ever have to have the kind of experience that that sweet lady did who was standing in front of me at the drugstore.
That is why I came down here tonight, to join Congressman Gingrey and speak directly to the American people and say, get out there and help, get out there and get yourself registered, or get somebody to help you get registered, because these benefits are important. There are occasions now where people say, right now, prescription drug benefits do not mean much to me. One never knows what is right down the road, and it is important that people get registered now and have those benefits available. Because in the month of May, they may come down with something where they have got a permanent situation where for the rest of their life they are going to be taking medicine, and if they had not gotten registered, then they would be in a scramble trying to get registered. So it is important to look at it now.
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I think is most important as we sit here this evening is to encourage our seniors and their families to assist our seniors to get out and learn about the program and get signed up. Getting signed up is what it is all about. Trained professionals are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-Medicare.
They have got a Web site, and I am reading from Congressman Gingrey's sign, www.Medicare.gov, for those high-tech seniors, who are probably better at that than I am, to get out there and do this on-line. There is a lot of help available.
I hope that that lady who was standing in line in front of me in the drugstore in Round Rock, Texas, I hope she hears, by accident or whatever, channel surfing, and tunes into this show tonight and will say ``I had better go do that.''
I think our colleagues on both sides of the aisle are going to be out in our districts talking to people and saying do not let something new keep you away. Get out there and get involved and get signed up.
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Mr. CARTER. That is right. And if the gentleman would yield once again. As we talk about this, let us reemphasize again to our seniors the importance of getting registered and signed up for the program. You know, as the gentleman was talking about these drugs, and we read the list off, of those drugs I am familiar with and some of them I am not.
But I thought about how much medicine has changed. And you are the doctors. I am just an old lawyer and trial judge. But I can recall that my father almost died from bleeding ulcers. As a younger man, I was working my way down that road, and, in fact, at one point in time had an ulcer. But Tagamet, I am not plugging any particular brand, but that is the name I know of because that is what I took when Tagamet came on the market; and with that drug, I have never had any more problems whatsoever with ulcers, where my father almost died. They had to give him 7 pints of blood, and he had to be cut from stem to stern like he had been in a knife fight to try to save his life and they had to remove two-thirds of his stomach.
Medicine now can stop a condition that we used to solve with major surgery with prescription drugs. This tool is now available to our Medicare recipients. It is critical that they understand, do not be frightened even by what we have tried to make simple here tonight. Some could even be frightened by that. Do not be frightened by that. Make the effort to save your life. Make the effort to go out there and have every tool that you can be one of those blessings to our country, and that is a senior citizen with long life and good wisdom to pass on to future generations. And you can only be that way if you take care of yourself.
And part of taking care of yourself is getting signed up so that modern medicine can care for you, because with no offense to the great work that our surgeons do, in the long haul, having had a couple of those surgeries myself, I will take that pill all day long and into the night before I want them to cut me wide open because I think modern medicine has been proven over and over, that good preventive medicine, which we now have in this plan, meaning going to get your checkups, get your tests for which you are now covered, do those things that were not available but are now available to you to make sure you are maintaining a look at your health.
And the prescription drug plan along with the other normal medical benefits that have been available before make this a better future for our senior citizens, a better, healthier, longer future. I cannot impress it upon our people enough. This is so, so life changing in the world. It is not perfect, and we all would love for the world to be perfect. But you know what? When we came in here, somebody hit on it tonight, when we came in here and signed up for Congress and they dropped those half a dozen or a dozen plans in front of me, it might as well have been written in Greek. And I sat there and stumbled and fumbled and said I am sticking with my Texas plan and stayed right where I was. And that is my own fault. And I am confessing it right here in front of God and everybody that that is what I did. But in fact I thought I had a better plan in Texas anyway. But that is a different story. But I understand their frustration because it is a frustrating thing. But that is the world we deal with right now.
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