Snowe on Rx Benefits: Skeptical of Private Sector Solutions

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Snowe on Rx Benefits: Skeptical of Private Sector Solutions

June 6, 2003Contact: Dave Lackey or Elizabeth Wenk/202-224-5344AT SENATE HEARING, SNOWE MAKES CASE FOR EQUAL DRUG BENEFIT NO MATTER WHICH Rx PLAN SENIORS CHOOSE[i]Tells CMS Administrator, colleagues, legislation cannot force seniors out of Medicare and into private delivery system; Expresses concern regarding Public Citizen report[/i]WASHINGTON, D.C. - Making the case to offer seniors a choice of prescription drug
plans with all options receiving an equal drug benefit, U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) today reiterated her priority of including an equal benefit in final law as the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on Medicare Improvements."Statistics show that more than 80 percent of seniors like Medicare, but they also reveal that almost 70 percent of people would like to have a choice of plans under Medicare. We need to be responsive to seniors' needs and wants and that is why I have advocated offering a choice of plans with all options receiving an equally valued drug benefit. That will allow seniors to choose the plan that best meets their health care needs," said Snowe, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare. The Committee next week will take up legislation to modernize Medicare with a prescription drug benefit based on [b]the Tripartisan approach[/b] authored by Snowe and other Senators last year. Snowe told Tom Scully, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) that while she believes there is a role for the private market in Medicare, she strongly supports the role the traditional fee-for-service program plays. [b]"I believe the private market can enhance Medicare by offering additional options, but at this point it is not a magic bullet that will correct all of the program's problems. That is why I have advocated for Congress to expand the private market options under Medicare by adding preferred provider organizations; however, I also believe we need to provide an equal drug benefit for all options so that they can compete on quality and services, not on the level of drug coverage," Snowe said[/b].In questioning Scully, Snowe pointed to a report released by Public Citizen yesterday which highlights the number of doctors in Maine participating in Medicare is dramatically higher than those participating in the preferred provider organizations. "I am quite dismayed by this report which is proof in point that we cannot solely have PPOs providing a prescription drug benefit. [b]Not only do we not know how this benefit would work through a private plan, we cannot be sure it will actually work and that would put seniors at grave risk," Snowe said[/b].Snowe praised the broad parameters agreed to by bipartisan members of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, saying they "strike the right chord for enacting a prescription drug law this year. These principles lay a solid foundation for writing and passing a bipartisan prescription drug bill this year. They are based on issues that have been important to me, reflected in the Tripartisan plan from last year, and most importantly provide an equal prescription drug benefit no matter which option seniors choose. This is absolutely critical to ensuring all seniors, no matter where they live or what their income, receive the necessary help to purchase the drugs they need," Snowe said.Snowe has been working with Finance Committee Chair and Ranking Member, Senators Grassley and Baucus and Senators Jeffords, Breaux and Hatch to build on the Tripartisan bill from last year and write legislation a majority of the Senate could support. The principles announced yesterday by Grassley and Baucus are a reflection of that agreement and are outlined below:* Equal Drug Benefit Under All Options* No Sunset Provisions* $35 monthly premium* Target Additional Assistance to Low-Income Seniors* Intermediary Prescription Drug Benefit Program Immediately - Until the comprehensive plan is up and running by 2006, seniors will be provided with a drug benefit card enabling them up to a 25 percent discount on their prescription drugs. The lowest income seniors will receive a $600 per year deposit on this card to use towards the purchase of prescription drugs.Snowe said the Senate Finance Committee is expected to consider legislation based on these principles on Thursday, June 12th and the U.S. Senate will consider the legislation the week of June 16th and 23rd. Elizabeth B. Wenk
Press Secretary
U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine)