Passage of Medicare bill will haunt Congress

Statement of Citizen Action/Illinois

CHICAGO—“The passage of HR 1 will come back to haunt the members of Congress who voted for it. The revolt against the ‘Catastrophic’ bill of 1989 should have served as a reminder to the political disaster of establishing so-called reform programs that senior citizens simply cannot afford,” said Lynda DeLaforgue, co-director of Citizen Action/Illinois. “Unfortunately, President Bush, the Republican-controlled Congress and the AARP have caved in to the special interests of the drug and insurance industries and have put industry priorities before the needs of senior citizens and the disabled.”

The Medicare bill didn’t give the seniors of our country much to be thankful for, according to Citizen Action. However, the big drug and insurance companies can start preparing to feast on the hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded enticements, and new profit-making opportunities that this legislation will rake in for them.

Senior citizens of America don’t rely on TV spots and generalizations when it comes to retirement benefits. They will be putting pen to paper and figure out how the new Medicare bill (HR 1) will influence them. And once our seniors begin to read the fine print, they will soon realize that this bill is nothing less than a farce upon their real need for affordable health care and prescription drugs. Seniors will not be fooled, and they will quickly learn:

• If they spend $5,000 per year on prescription drugs, it won’t take them long to figure out that they will be paying $4,000 for those drugs.

• More than 2 million people will lose their retiree benefits. It won’t take long for them to start asking, “Will it be me?”

• They will figure out that indexing the Part B deductible to inflation (13 percent in 2002 for Part B services) will quickly make Part B unaffordable for those on a fixed income.

• It won’t take long for the 50 percent of seniors who will annually fall in the “donut hole” to figure out that they will continue to pay premiums and get absolutely no benefits.

• It won’t take long for them to figure out that they don’t like depending on HMOs for their prescriptions—many have firsthand experience in losing benefits and coverage provided by the private insurance sector.

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