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Prescription Drug Benefits

Location: Washington, DC


    Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I thank my friend from Illinois. I commend the Senator for his substitute. What the Senator is talking about is exactly what the seniors of America are asking us to do to make sure they have a comprehensive prescription drug benefit under Medicare which they know will be there, which is stable, dependable, where you can choose your own doctor no matter where you live in the country; that whether you live in the upper peninsula of Michigan or Chicago, IL, you will have an opportunity to receive the health care you need and deserve under Medicare.

    By simply expanding that to include prescription drugs, and then coupling that with the ability to keep prices down, I believe this is the best possible approach to come before the Senate—in fact, the U.S. Congress. I am hopeful that colleagues, when this comes to the floor, will rally around this plan.

    What Senator Durbin has done is put together a plan designed for seniors, not designed for pharmaceutical companies or insurance companies, which is, unfortunately, why this process has become so complicated. For example, people look at me with bewilderment when I am explaining that for the private sector plans in their region, if there are two or more, they would have to take one. But if there isn't, they could have a backup, but then they would have to drop it and go back to an insurance plan. When I explain that plan, they scratch their heads and say: Why are you doing that?

    Well, unfortunately, we have a plan put forward—and I have to say it is a valiant effort by many people to try to come to some consensus, and I appreciate that—but the reality is, it is designed much more to benefit the pharmaceutical companies in particular than it is our seniors.

    Why is our approach not supported by the pharmaceutical industry? For one simple reason: If we have all 40 million seniors and people with disabilities in one insurance plan, they can negotiate a big group discount, which is what they should be able to do. They should be able to come together, as one insurance plan, and negotiate a group discount. As Senator Durbin indicated, when you do that, you are not paying retail. In fact, the Federal Government does that on behalf of our veterans through the VA, and we are able to get about a 40-percent discount, which is a terrific deal for the veterans of this country. I am proud we do that, but why shouldn't that same opportunity be available for every senior, for every person with a disability under Medicare?

    So I just wanted to rise to congratulate the Senator's vision on putting forward the right plan that makes sure that, in fact, our seniors know they can count on a $35 premium. They would also not have to have a deductible. Seventy percent, as I understand, of their prescription drug costs would be paid for. There would be no gap in coverage for the last few months of the year. Or if you found yourself getting to a point where you reached the end of your coverage, and then, unfortunately, your doctor indicates you have an even more serious illness to deal with, you would not be left wondering what to do to pay for that treatment and medication.

    This plan does what our seniors in this country are asking for. I believe it does what we should be doing for them. It is what they need, and it is what they deserve. It is what they have been waiting for.

    I commend the Senator from Illinois for putting forward this option of which I encourage all of our colleagues to come together to embrace, standing together to achieve a bipartisan victory that is in the best interest of our American seniors.

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