Republicans Encouraging Seniors To Enroll in Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
Republican congressional leaders have urged GOP lawmakers to spend their August recess signing up seniors for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, the Washington Times reports. The Republican Party "could suffer politically or lose power on other issues if it doesn't go well or if seniors complain," the Times reports.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said he will be "the number one" person signing up seniors for the program and added that Democrats will actively discourage seniors from enrolling.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said, "There is a lot riding on" the 2003 Medicare law, adding that Republicans might "lose a lot if we did not get out there and sell (it)."
Jennifer Crider, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said, "Seniors are quite confused about what benefit they qualify for and what they'll be getting." Republicans are trying to "minimize political damage," she said (Fagan, Washington Times, 8/22).
President Bush later this month is scheduled to make an appearance in Arizona to encourage seniors to sign up for the new benefits (House, Arizona Republic, 8/20).
In related news, Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is considering changes to Medicare so that his committee would no longer have to find $10 billion in cuts from Medicaid, according to sources familiar with the discussions, CongressDaily reports. Grassley's committee is working on a plan that outlines ways to make $10 billion in Medicaid cuts. The committee must deliver the plan to the Senate Budget Committee by Sept. 16. A Grassley spokesperson said the senator is "working to meet the reconciliation target with Medicaid only," but no final decisions will be reached until after Labor Day.
Senate Finance Committee members Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) favor a plan that would reduce Medicaid cuts by as much as $5 billion. Smith is pushing a plan to make up the additional $5 billion through Medicare cuts. Grassley "is said to be considering" cost savings by changing the payment formula for Medicare Advantage plans, CongressDaily reports (Cohn/Heil, CongressDaily, 8/19).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.