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Maria's Monday Memo

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Maria's Monday Memo

Senator Maria Cantwell's Weekly Memo

Working for a Fair and Meaningful Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

Providing a prescription drug benefit under the Medicare program is one of my top priorities. Unfortunately, the bill that President Bush signed into law today is a prescription for continued high drug costs, not the remedy our health care system needs. This bill fails to address interstate disparities in Medicare reimbursements, reduces funding for critical initiatives to address cancer care and help low-income seniors, and will have a long-lasting negative impact on the Medicare program itself. Worst of all, it neglects to address one of the most pressing issues in health care today: the soaring cost of prescription drugs.

In conversations with seniors, doctors, and others around the state - including a series of town hall meetings - I have been asked time and again: please, don't let them ruin Medicare. I have received thousands of phone calls, emails, and letters from Washingtonians concerned about this legislation. By an overwhelming majority, they opposed the bill. I agreed, and that's why I voted against the bill.

The bill included some positive provisions, such as increased reimbursement for doctors, but they are outweighed by the bill's failures. It fails to keep the promise that Medicare be a universal benefit for all seniors over the age of 65; fails to add a solid prescription drug benefit to Medicare for seniors; fails to reign in the astronomical cost increases of pharmaceuticals; fails to protect low-income beneficiaries; and fails to ensure that those seniors who already have good coverage through their employers. It's a bad bill for the nation's seniors, and it's a bad bill for Washington state.

I am committed to solving these issues, fixing the bad aspects of this bill, and curbing the soaring cost of prescription drugs. The Administration and Congress should not be allowed to shirk their responsibility to our nation's seniors. I take that responsibility very seriously, and will continue to fight to protect Medicare and to provide a fair and meaningful prescription drug benefit.

Fighting Identity Theft by Empowering Victims and Law Enforcement

On Thursday, I joined President George Bush at the White House as he signed into law my legislation to fight identity theft, the nation's fastest-growing crime. The new law will empower consumers to reclaim their identity, protect victims' credit histories, and give law enforcement officials the tools they need to fight this crime.

My bill, based on Washington state law, provides a consistent national mechanism for a consumer to establish that he or she is a victim of identity theft; and requires businesses to provide relevant documents to ID theft victims to help them clear their records. But my bill also goes beyond Washington law. Now, when police investigate an ID theft, they need a subpoena to obtain documents that document the fraud. I recently heard from police in Vancouver about how this can impede police investigations. My legislation fixes this problem by allowing law enforcement to act as a victim's agent. This will help them get records documenting fraudulent transactions from businesses, making it quicker and more efficient to investigate multiple cases of ID theft, spot patterns, and put the thieves behind bars. A federal law makes sense for businesses, too, since they'll only need to be familiar with the requirements of one law, rather than a jumble of different state laws.

Promoting Workforce Training

Although we have recently heard some good economic news, we still have a long way to go before the economy is out of the woods. Compared to when this recession began, we have 2.4 million fewer jobs. Economists suggest that some of these jobs are permanently lost-gone overseas or eliminated because of increased automation or efficiency. .

Some new jobs will be created, but they will not be the same jobs we lost. As thousands of Washington families know, a jobless recovery is no recovery at all. To get these laid-off workers back to work, they must be retrained for the jobs still available today and the jobs that will be available tomorrow.

That's why supporting training and education programs is one of my top goals. I'm proud that more than three dozen of my fellow Senators signed a letter I wrote to the White House to request that the Administration fully fund the Workforce Investment Act. The bottom line is that for a sustained economic recovery, we must retool our workforce so that it has the skilled workers necessary for the new jobs of tomorrow.

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