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Berry Calls on President to Make Medicare Reform a Top Priority in State of the Union

Location: Washington, DC

Berry Calls on President to Make Medicare Reform a Top Priority in State of the Union

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Representative Marion Berry (D-AR, 1st) and eighteen of his colleagues sent a letter to President Bush today urging him to make Medicare Reform a top priority during his State of the Union address. The President is scheduled to come before Congress on January 31st to unveil his legislative priorities for the year.

"A true leader is not afraid to admit his mistakes and try another approach," said Congressman Berry. "This wait-and-see strategy is hurting our seniors and pharmacists at great expense to the government. We know how to fix this benefit. We just need a leader who is willing to listen."

The group of Democrats and one Independent encouraged President Bush to reform the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit immediately. Co-signers are working with Congressman Berry and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky to enact H.R. 752, the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings Act. The legislation would establish a Medicare-administered prescription drug plan that requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate for lower prices on behalf of all the seniors enrolled. Democrats filed a discharge petition on the Berry-Schakowsky bill in December in an attempt to force a vote on the measure.

"We know price negotiation can drive prescription drug prices down by as much as 40%," said Congressman Berry. "Instead of giving private companies complete power, let's try an approach that's proven to work. We simply cannot endure another disaster."

Text of the letter is provided below.

January 27, 2006

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

In a few short days, you will present your State of the Union Address to Members of Congress and the American people. Since this speech traditionally is a forum for discussing past accomplishments and goals for the coming year; we believe that you must level with the public regarding the reality of the new Medicare Prescription Drug Plan and the need for reform.

No amount of optimism will mask the frustration the American people are experiencing during the first month of implementation. Because private drug plans have failed to follow the rules, our most vulnerable senior citizens and persons with disabilities are leaving their pharmacies without the life-sustaining drugs they need. No matter how many steps the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) take to alleviate these immediate emergency problems, it will not be enough to reform a fundamentally complicated, expensive, and unmanageable drug benefit. Because the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 catered to the desires of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, senior citizens and persons with disabilities were denied the simple option of adding a Medicare-administered prescription drug plan to their existing Medicare benefits. Instead, this law forces beneficiaries to sort through the ever-changing array of plans, premiums, copayments, and formularies offered by dozens of private insurance companies. Because Medicare is prohibited from negotiating for discounts, the drug benefit will never provide seniors and people with disabilities reliable and affordable access to prescription drugs.

We all face a harsh reality and one that must not be ignored by your Administration. It is critical to the health of millions of beneficiaries that you address the fact that all Medicare beneficiaries are not receiving the medically necessary prescriptions they were promised under Medicare Part D. Seniors, pharmacists, state and federal lawmakers are just some of the groups asking you to acknowledge the need for relief and simplification before our citizens are put through more turmoil.

We pledge our support in working with you to enact a real Medicare drug benefit - one that is affordable and that covers the drugs that seniors and persons with disabilities need. The first step, however, is for you to acknowledge the problems and commit to replace Part D with a meaningful benefit.


Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME)
Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA)
Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-SD)
Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA)
Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)
Rep. John Larson (D-CT)
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR)
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI)
Rep. Jim Davis (D-FL)

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