Issue Position: Seniors
Social Security has a long history of ensuring the retirement security of American workers, and Senator Nelson is committed to maintaining this tradition. He is determined that Social Security will remain a reliable source of retirement savings for our children and grandchildren. Nelson has cosponsored legislation to help strengthen the program for future generations, and opposes its privatization.
The modernization of the Medicare system is a health policy issue demanding our attention. Florida's three million Medicare beneficiaries legitimately are concerned about limited access due to a shortage of health professionals, the expense and availability of certain treatments - especially prescription drugs - and growing out-of-pocket expenses. Senator Nelson feels those who have paid Medicare insurance premiums all their lives deserve to have full access to the program.
Senator Nelson will continue to support modernizing reimbursement rates for Medicare providers. Without addressing this issue, Senator Nelson believes individuals and communities will continue to be underserved as few quality providers offer services.
Additionally, Senator Nelson has filed legislation aimed at maintaining equal access to the Medicare program. The Equal Access to Medicare Act of 2005 would prevent doctors from charging "access fees" on top of Medicare payments in exchange for continued treatment. Allowing this growing practice to continue unfettered could contribute to the looming shortage of doctors available to serve low- and middle-income beneficiaries.
Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
Congress recently passed the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, adding a new prescription drug benefit to the Medicare program. Senator Nelson voted against the Medicare prescription drug benefit because it was too complicated, did not adequately protect seniors' retiree coverage and failed to address the escalating costs of prescription drugs. Senator Nelson believes seniors deserve a better Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Amid widespread reports of confusions regarding the program, Senator Nelson has introduced the Medicare Informed Choice Act, a bill that would give seniors more time to enroll in the new Medicare prescription drug program. He believes this extra time will allow seniors to fully research their options, ask questions, and make informed decisions. Nelson remains optimistic about the future of this legislation in 2006.
Unfortunately, the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 forbids the government from negotiating lower prescription drug prices on behalf of seniors. In reaction, Senator Nelson cosponsored a bipartisan bill that would allow Medicare to begin bargaining for discounted prices.
End-of-life decisions are difficult and profoundly personal for all Americans, but Senator Nelson hopes to make the process slightly simpler in the future. Following the tragic case of Terri Schiavo, Nelson filed legislation to make it easier to complete living will documents. He hopes this bill will help more people live their last days as they wish and without the interference of judges and politicians.
Before his election to the Senate in November of 2000, Nelson served as Florida's treasurer and insurance commissioner in a job that pitted him against international insurance companies due to his aggressive efforts to recover what is owed to survivors of Nazi brutality. As a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Nelson has strengthened the U.S. oversight of programs compensating Holocaust survivors. He helped get a tax exemption on Holocaust restitution payments, and successfully sought extra time for victims to file claims against insurers.