Seniors Plan To Show Anger Over Congress’ Failure To Pass Medicare Rx Drug Benefit During Elections
Seniors are "angry" that Congress has failed to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit and plan to "show their disappointment" in the November elections, according to a new survey, Long Island Newsday reports. Conducted for the Alliance for Retired Americans, the poll questioned 600 seniors in mid-August and found that 44% consider prescription drugs a "top priority." In addition, 90% said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supports adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, and 70% said they would prefer a plan administered by Medicare. The poll also found that seniors "overwhelmingly" prefer a drug benefit that has low monthly premiums and no annual deductibles, in contrast with a proposal passed by the House in June (Barfield Berry, Long Island Newsday, 9/5). Under that plan, Medicare beneficiaries would be allowed to purchase drug coverage directly from private insurance companies for a $250 annual deductible and a $33 monthly premium. Low-income seniors would be exempt from the premiums and deductible (California Healthline, 6/28). The survey found more than 50% of seniors blame the pharmaceutical industry, lobbyists and "hefty campaign contributions" for Congress' inaction on the issue (Long Island Newsday, 9/5).
In related news, the Alliance for Retired Americans is holding a rally in Washington today to protest the "skyrocketing costs" of prescription drugs and lobby for a Medicare drug benefit. Speakers at the rally include Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) (Alliance for Retired Americans release, 9/4).
The following summarizes recent editorial comment on Congress' inability to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Lawmakers cannot pass a Medicare drug benefit because they are being "held hostage" by senior organizations that are "insistent that all seniors -- already the nation's wealthiest demographic group -- have access to free or subsidized drug coverage," according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial. Such an approach is "financially unrealistic and profoundly unfair to the 40 million other Americans without health coverage of any kind," the editorial concludes (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/5).
Portland Press Herald: Although Congress has "much to do" before adjourning, adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare "should not be lost in the rush," the Portland Press Herald says. Instead of demanding that a drug benefit come with an "overhaul" of Medicare, Congress should view the creation of such a benefit as a first step in reforming the program, the editorial says. The editorial concludes: "We urge the Senate to make passage of a responsible, affordable Medicare drug benefit a priority this fall" (Portland Press Herald, 9/3).
- Gary Andres, former White House senior lobbyist: Although the prescription drug issue was supposed to "pack a wallop" in the November elections, it "may end up a political dud," according to Washington Times columnist Gary Andres, senior managing partner with the government relations firm Dutko Group and a former White House senior lobbyist. Seniors are "jittery and mad" that the economic downturn has "trumped talk about Medicare prescription drugs." Andres concludes, "Crafty GOP legislative moves, lack of consensus among Democrats and market realities have transformed the issue from one of this year's major political fire drills into an electoral false alarm" (Andres, Washington Times, 9/5).
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