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Stabenow: Protect Our Troops' Health Benefits While They Protect Us

Location: Washington, DC

Stabenow: Protect Our Troops' Health Benefits While They Protect Us

Amendment rejects proposed hike of prescription drug co-pays for active duty soldiers and their families

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today introduced legislation to lower prescription drug co-pays at retail pharmacies for active duty service members by stopping fee increases that are included in both the President's 2007 budget and legislation passed by the House of Representatives. The Lautenberg-Stabenow amendment was offered to the DoD Authorization bill. A vote on the amendment is expected this week.

"I was fortunate to spend Memorial Day with our troops in Iraq, and I saw firsthand their dedication under extremely difficult conditions," said Stabenow. "We have an obligation to support these men and women, and that means not raising their family's health care costs while they're fighting to protect us."

The President's budget would raise co-pays for prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies from $3 to $5 for generic drugs, and from $9 to $15 for brand name drugs - nearly a 70% increase for military personnel and their families over 5 years ago. This far exceeds the 24% increase in military pay or the 14% increase in retired pay over the same period.

Forty-three percent of prescriptions filled by active service members or their families are obtained at retail stores. Fifty-one percent are filled at military pharmacies, where there are no co-payments. However, there are no military pharmacies in the entire state of Michigan. Only 6% of the time do families choose to get their drugs through the mail order system, possibly because these drugs can take weeks to arrive.

"Are we going to tell a mother on active duty to wait two weeks to get antibiotics for her children?" asked Stabenow. "Are we going tell to our troops that their families have to pay more for their prescriptions while they're serving and protecting us in Iraq? That is simply unacceptable."

There are over 64,000 active duty, Reserve and Guard troops from Michigan whose families would be impacted by these cost hikes. Without passage of this important amendment, soldiers and their families nationwide will have to pay an additional $200 million next year for their medications.

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