Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) announced his decision to vote against the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003.  Prescription drug coverage in this bill is discontinuous and leaves many seniors paying a monthly premium while not receiving any benefits.  After the initial coverage limit of $2,200, beneficiaries are forced to pay 100 percent of the cost until total drug spending reaches approximately $5,100, after which the plan will pick up the majority of costs.  This confusing patchwork quilt of coverage results in an insufficient program for beneficiaries.

“The access and affordability of prescription drugs is critical to our health care system,” Smith said. “It is important that consumers are able to obtain affordable prescription drug coverage immediately, that the consumers who need help the most get it, and that the new prescription drug plan fits within the constraints of the federal budget.  The current bill before Congress does not conform to these principles.”

Beginning in 2010, this bill also includes a “premium support demonstration program” that would move towards privatizing Medicare, coercing seniors into HMO’s, and raising premiums for traditional Medicare beneficiaries.  Additionally, the legislation creates a $12 billion slush fund to subsidize and induce HMO’s into participating in the new program.  This puts Medicare at an immediate disadvantage and results in adverse selection where those seniors who stay with traditional Medicare pay more for their health coverage.  Medicare was created because the private health care system could not effectively provide affordable health insurance coverage for seniors.

“At the beginning of the 108th Congress, I introduced the “Medicare Rx Now Act of 2003”, with several of my colleagues. I am proud to have offered an affordable prescription drug benefit that provides coverage to the people who need the most help, is fiscally responsible, and permits coverage to go uninterrupted,” Smith said. “I am disappointed that the House did not consider this bill and instead chose to go forward with a plan that will undermine the structure of Medicare, threaten those seniors who have good drug coverage now through retiree health plans, is not continuous, forces seniors to pay a monthly premium while not receiving any benefit and is not fiscally responsible.