Families USA's Statement in Anticipation of State of the Union Message on Medicare and Prescription Drugs
It is widely reported that the President plans to propose a prescription drug benefit only to those seniors willing to abandon traditional Medicare and enroll in private health plans. Although the President may offer few specifics about his Medicare proposal in the State of the Union tonight, the Administration has used code words to signal its intention to promote private plans over traditional Medicare. Those code words - such as "modernizing," "reforming," and promoting "choice" for Medicare beneficiaries - may be included in the President's speech.
The following is the statement of Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, concerning the President's indication to restructure Medicare by limiting drug coverage to seniors in private health plans:
"The President's proposal to coerce seniors into private health plans, as a condition for receiving prescription drug coverage, will rob seniors of the most important choice they have today - the right to choose their own doctors. Under this proposal, seniors are forced to choose between the drug coverage they so desperately need and the doctors they have come to depend on.
"The Administration claims it believes in marketplace competition, but this proposal is the antithesis of competition. Instead, it stacks the deck against seniors' current favorite choice - the traditional Medicare program, which gives seniors full access to the doctors of their choice.
"Private health plans participating in Medicare have a poor record serving seniors. They are unavailable in many rural communities, and they frequently leave communities that are deemed unprofitable. The private plans that continue to enroll seniors are, with each passing year, significantly increasing seniors' costs and reducing the services offered.
"The coupling of prescription drug coverage with enrollment in private health plans will make it much more difficult to enact prescription drug coverage in this Congress. It will make an already-difficult uphill climb into a Himalayan expedition."