INHOFE SUPPORTS BIPARTISAN MEDICARE REFORM LEGISLATION
WASHINGTON-U.S. Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) today voted in favor of the Medicare and Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (H.R. 1) that passed the Senate 54-44.
"This bill presents many strong points for Oklahoma's Medicare beneficiaries, one of the greatest being the much needed financial support for rural health care. In 1997, I was the only Republican to vote against the Balanced Budget Act because of its lack of support for rural hospitals. Back then I made a commitment to not allow our rural hospitals to be closed and I am pleased we have finally addressed this important issue in this legislation.
"Currently, Medicare payments to Oklahoma's critical access hospitals [those who serve a proportionally large amount of low-income Medicare and Medicaid patients] are capped at 5.25 percent, this legislation will lift that number to 12 percent in 2004. This translates into greater access to healthcare for the Oklahoma Medicare beneficiaries who need it most.
"Also, my office has received many calls from Oklahoma Medicare beneficiaries concerned that we are creating a mandatory government program that would force them to give up their current insurance coverage. This is not the case. With this legislation we are creating a voluntary prescription drug benefit program that is optional for all Medicare beneficiaries.
"Another vital reform in this legislation is the Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) provision. These HSAs will allow ALL Americans to contribute to a tax-free and portable savings account that they may use for medical expenses in the future. Not only for themselves but also their spouse and any dependants. In the long-term these HSAs will decrease individuals' dependency on Medicare and Medicaid."
The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 will give all Medicare beneficiaries' access to prescription drug coverage and the buying power to reduce the prices they pay for medications. It will also preserve and expand private plan participation in Medicare, giving seniors more choices and better benefits. The act will provide enhanced prescription drug coverage for the lowest income beneficiaries and an immediate prescription drug discount card for all beneficiaries until the full plan is available nationwide. Additionally, the legislation includes savings for many state governments; increased coverage for preventive services; and provisions for modernizing the drug delivery infrastructure.