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Democrats Work to Protect Social Security COLAs

Location: Washington, DC

Pelosi: Democrats Work to Protect Social Security COLAs

Washington, D.C.-House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle; Congressman Pete Stark of California, Senior Democrat, Joint Economic Committee; Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Member of the Joint Economic Committee; Senator Patty Murray of Washington; Congressman Robert Matsui of California; and Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota at a news conference in the Capitol this morning to announce legislation that protects seniors' costs-of-living adjustments (COLAs) from being eroded by rising Medicare premiums. Below are Pelosi's remarks:

"We all know that when the prescription drug bill came down the pike, it was a cruel hoax on seniors. Democrats want to repeal and replace the Republican bill so that it is a fair shake for seniors. Making drug prices more affordable is a big part of our bill, by giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services the ability to negotiate lower prices. And this would all be done under Medicare so that it is guaranteed and affordable for seniors. That is not what we have now.

"We are releasing a report this morning from the Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee called "Rising Medicare Premiums Undermine the Social Security COLA." That, of course, says it all.

"My colleagues have said it so clearly: we all know that the cost of living increase for seniors is about 2 percent, but the annual increase in the premium for prescription drugs will increase by at least 7 percent. Those seniors who are living on the margin would have most of their cost of living adjustment eaten up by the increase in premiums for prescription drugs, and for most seniors, that would be automatically taken from their Social Security check. That is absolutely unacceptable; Democrats have a better idea.

"We have this bill, the Social Security COLA Protection Act of 2004, which would ensure that no more than 25 percent of a retiree's annual COLA could be taken away by increases in Medicare premiums.

"The prescription drug bill has so many problems with it, but at the very least, you would think the Republicans would have the decency to put a cap on how much of the COLA the Medicare prescription drug premium could eat up. But it didn't do that, because as Bob Matsui said, the Republicans had other priorities, and they were not to help America's seniors.

"I know that a similar bill is in the Senate. Seniors and the disabled would retain 75 percent of the COLA. We will not rest until the Medicare Bill is repealed and replaced by something better. Democrats know how to do that. In the meantime, we must insist that the COLA not be eaten up by Medicare premiums.

"I urge our colleagues in both the House and the Senate to support this bill, and I thank those members who are here today for their leadership."

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