Monday, November 24, 2003
WASHINGTON, DC - Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) issued the following statement regarding today's cloture vote on the Medicare Conference Report (H.R. 1, the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act), which he opposed:
"By caving in to the special interests, the Senate has given our seniors a raw deal.
"I fought to stop this bill because I believe we need a real world, affordable Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors. A plan that won't force seniors into an HMO, that won't undermine the coverage seniors get today, that'll be run by Medicare instead of an insurance company in search of a buck, and that'll send a real benefit to every senior. That's a real deal for America's seniors.
"Instead, seniors are now looking at a prescription drug benefit that is not affordable, is not comprehensive, and is not guaranteed. There are holes in coverage and complex rules. The coverage gaps remain too high and seniors are still charged premiums even after their benefits shut down in the so-called donut hole. Seniors are not assured a government fallback plan with a set national premium.
"At least 3 million seniors are projected to lose their gold-plated retiree prescription drug plan and be forced into a lesser benefit under the Medicare plan. This bill fails to adequately fix protections for low-income seniors and people with disabilities that currently rely on both Medicare and Medicaid for their coverage, causing as many as 6 million to pay more money for fewer benefits.
"Seniors who think this bill is only designed to give them new benefits will be shocked to find out that this legislation actually raises $25 billion in new revenue directly out of their pockets by increasing the costs for traditional Medicare coverage of doctor and hospital visits.
"So who were the winners as a result of this vote?
"Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, lobbyists, and special interests of every stripe, who get a $139 billion bonanza of windfall profits.
"And the stock market confirms it. Stock prices for health insurers have increased an average of 30 percent this year as odds for passage of the Medicare bill have improved. In the past month, stock prices for a whole host of pharmaceutical companies have shot up more than 10 percent. My experience tells me that if it's good for these guys, seniors better watch their wallets because they're about to get socked.
"This bill is really about President Bush passing the buck on prescription drug coverage and passing the bucks from seniors to the pharmaceutical industry. America's seniors deserve better than what this bill gives them, and I intend to keep fighting to make sure they do."