Tuesday, July 8

Prescription drug plan
good for seniors    
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[JULY 8, 2003]  SPRINGFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, praised the House-passed version of a prescription drug benefit program, saying the legislation will help seniors deal with the ever-increasing costs of prescription drugs.

Last week, both the House and Senate passed versions of a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. A House-Senate conference committee will work out the differences between the two bills. 

"Providing a prescription drug benefit is the issue that I hear more about than almost any other," the congressman said, "and the plan we passed in the House is a voluntary, affordable program that will address the needs of Medicare beneficiaries. We in Congress have talked long enough about a drug benefit for our seniors, and it is time that we get this plan enacted. I was glad to see that the Senate passed the legislation by a large margin and with significant bipartisan support.

"Over 98 percent of employer-sponsored health plans pay for prescription drugs, yet Medicare has not changed in 38 years of existence," LaHood added. "Medicare needs to be updated by providing assistance for one of the most pressing needs for our seniors:  the cost of prescription drugs. I am hopeful the conference committee will quickly iron out differences between the two bills and that we will have it to President Bush by the fall."


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According to the Congressional Budget Office, a typical senior will save 37 percent, realizing a total annual savings of over $470 ($1,285 currently versus $812 under the House plan, including the cost of monthly premium) under the plan that passed the House.

The House-passed version calls for a voluntary program, as well as allowing seniors to choose their own plan under Medicare. No one will be forced into a plan. If Medicare beneficiaries currently have a drug plan outside of Medicare, they will have the choice to remain in their current plan or enroll in a plan under Medicare. The legislation also calls for at least two drug plans in an area, allowing for competition to hold down costs.

The plan will have a monthly premium of approximately $35 with a $250 deductible and will cover 80 percent of prescription drug costs up to $2,000. Catastrophic protection, covering 100 percent of costs, will kick in after $3,500 in costs. 

The legislation also provides full coverage for low-income seniors. For people with income up to 135 percent of the poverty level, the plan fully subsidizes both the premium and the cost-sharing costs, except for nominal co-payments, which will be $5 and under. Partial subsidies will continue up to 150 percent of the poverty level.

[News release]


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