Nadler: GOP Medicare Plan is a Bitter Pill for Seniors to Swallow

Nov 20, 2003

Washington, DC -- Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today blasted the Republican leadership for attempting to ram through Congress Medicare legislation that will be far more damaging than beneficial to seniors' health care.

Nadler stated, "Today the Republicans are closer than they have ever been to accomplishing their goal of forcing America's seniors into private insurance plans and dismantling the Medicare program. For years, Democrats in Congress have fought to add to Medicare a real prescription drug benefit that would provide guaranteed coverage to all senior citizens. The Republicans fought us tooth and nail. Now, they have come up with a bill that, in the guise of adding a prescription drug benefit, would effectively dismantle the Medicare program."

Under the Republican bill, two to three million seniors could lose their retiree prescription drug coverage, over six million of the poorest Medicare beneficiaries would get less drug coverage than they have now, and millions of seniors could see their Medicare premiums rise if they refuse to join an HMO. The bill would heavily subsidize private insurance companies to compete with Medicare, and would then mandate premium increases and benefit cuts in Medicare if it could not "compete" with the heavily subsidized insurance companies.

The GOP bill would also mandate that future increases in the costs of medical care could be paid for only by increases in payroll taxes, Medicare premiums, and cuts in benefits -- and not by any increased contributions from the General Fund. The costs of future cost increases would, therefore, be borne entirely by seniors, who will be forced to pay higher premiums, and middle and low-income people who will have to pay higher payroll taxes. Income taxes, which are paid by wealthy, as well as by low and middle-income people, would no longer be available for covering any part of cost increases.

"This scheme is nothing more than an attempt to hasten the insolvency of Medicare in order to force deep cuts in the program. With projections that Medicare is on the most solid financial footing in its history, Republicans have been unable to convince Americans that the program is going bankrupt. They have decided, therefore, to change the rules to make it look bankrupt," said Nadler.

"The GOP's motives are clear. The passage of their bill will cause a shortfall in funding for Medicare, forcing seniors to rely on HMOs for their health coverage. This legislation is nothing more than a sweetheart deal for the Republican Party and the big insurance and drug companies, and a bad deal for seniors and for Medicare as we know it."