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Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003 - Continued

Location: Washington, DC



    Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I am very proud to be joining with my colleague on this very critical amendment. Can you imagine, you are someone who has worked hard all of your life, you have been fortunate enough to have a good-paying job with benefits, you are now retired and you are fortunate to have good health benefits and you find yourself in a situation that, as a result of an action taken here—and certainly there is an effort to move forward and provide people with prescription drug coverage—but if those who already have coverage find, as a result of an action we take, there is an incentive for their employer to drop their coverage, how would you feel about that?

    I know how I would feel about that. This amendment is about making sure those who have worked hard all of their lives, who have retired and have had the confidence and the security to know that those health care benefits, retirement benefits they have worked so hard to have in their retirement, would be secure—to make sure if someone is covered right now for prescription drugs that he or she not lose the ability to continue, at least to know that if their employer changes their benefit, they would have immediately the security of the backup Medicare prescription drug plan.

    This is very critical in a State such as Michigan where we have 37 percent of our retirees who have insurance, who right now are fortunate enough to have health care insurance and prescription drug coverage.

    While there are positives in this bill so there are those who will receive help as a result of being low-income seniors, or those with very high prescription drug costs who will receive help under this bill, one of the glaring omissions and great concerns that I have relates to what Senator Levin was just speaking about, the unfairness of saying to a group of people who have been fortunate enough to have insurance and prescription drug coverage that, as a result of something done by the Congress, they would potentially lose that coverage. That makes absolutely no sense.

    What our amendment is saying is if, in fact, their employer would have the incentive to change or drop their coverage, they should be guaranteed that something else is right there, that Medicare as a backup should be there.

    My preference would be that we change the formulas so there is not the incentive to drop anyone. That was one of the reasons I strongly supported Senator Rockefeller's amendment and other amendments that have been on the floor. Because my first choice is we take away any incentive for anyone to lose their prescription drug coverage. But unfortunately those amendments were not successful. We did not have the support to do that here.

    Given that, we are now coming in and saying if, in fact, an employer, because of the incentives, makes a determination to drop coverage, that at a minimum, out of a sense of decency and fairness, at a minimum that retiree needs to know that Medicare prescription drug coverage, through Medicare, is available without wading through tons of insurance forms or picking through plans or going through all the ups and downs that have been described so many times in this Chamber. They need to know, after having coverage, having it available, having it dependable, that another plan is right there for them. That is the least we can do.

    I hope we will join together in a bipartisan way this evening to agree to this very important amendment, and let us send a message to those fortunate enough to have health care insurance and prescription drug coverage that we remember them, we care about them, and we are going to make sure no harm is done to them in the process of putting together this prescription drug plan.

    I yield the floor.

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