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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) today spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate in favor of the Bingaman/Rockefeller/Murray amendment to try and fix the flawed Medicare Prescription Drug law that went into effect on January 1, 2006.



“I have traveled around my home state of Washington since August and I am not hearing that things are getting any better. There is a great deal of frustration and panic for duals that are being denied access to life saving drugs and to low income seniors in adult family homes who cannot afford the added burden of co-payments.” Murray said. “There are a number of problems with this flawed structure but I think we must address the immediate crisis for those who have few options.”



The amendment, of which Senator Murray is an original co-sponsor, would ensure that:

  • Low-income seniors and the disabled who rely on both Medicare and Medicaid – known as dually eligible - are ensured a 30 day supply of life saving drugs regardless of any communication, data exchange problem;


  • States, pharmacies and beneficiaries who have had to provide coverage to those who have fallen through the cracks, receive just and fair reimbursement;


  • and that if individuals are eligible today for Medicaid and Medicare, they are assumed eligible at the drug store.




A full transcript of Senator Murray’s Senate floor remarks follows:





“I come to the floor to speak in support of the Bingaman/Rockefeller/Murray Medicare drug REPAIR amendment. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment so we can address the immediate crisis facing the most vulnerable.

I wish we were here today debating a real fix to the Medicare Modernization Act but unfortunately the Senate Republican leadership places a much higher priority on tax cuts than providing reliable access to prescription drugs for low income seniors and the disabled.



I know the Chairman of the Finance Committee was on the floor earlier speaking about the relevance of this kind of amendment on a tax bill. However, this is the first piece of legislation that we have had on the floor since the rollout of the Medicare prescription drug bill. Offering this amendment to a tax bill is our only option.



This amendment would ensure that low income seniors and disabled who are often referred to as duals, are ensured a 30 day supply of life saving drugs regardless of any communication, data exchange problem. It would ensure that states, pharmacies and beneficiaries who have had to provide coverage to those who have fallen through the cracks, receive just and fair reimbursement. And, finally it would end the confusion facing duals as to whether or not they in fact qualify for assistance. Because of data and outreach problems many duals are being told they must meet a $250 deductible before their plan will even cover their drugs. If they are eligible today for Medicaid and Medicare, they are assumed eligible at the drug store.



I have listened to Secretary Leavitt and CMS Administrator McClellan reassures all of us that they are acting to fix these problems. I applaud their attention and commitment. I just wish they had been listening in November of last year when I offered an amendment to provide a 6 month transition for duals.



They have been responsive since January 1st. But, all of the steps they have implemented are worthless if there is no education of pharmacists and seniors or if there is no aggressive oversight and enforcement. Saying that they will work to ensure that plans honor their commitment, is not the same as saying plans will be required by law to honor their commitment. It does a senior no good to be told we are going to hold plans accountable and still have no access.



There are a number of problems with this flawed structure but I think we must address the immediate crisis for those who have few options.



If anyone on the floor today thinks this is fixed or thinks these problems are going away, you are mistaken. I have traveled around my home state of Washington since August and I am not hearing that things are getting any better. There is a great deal of frustration and panic for duals that are being denied access to life saving drugs and to low income seniors in adult family homes who cannot afford the added burden of co-payments.



This week, Governor Gregoire, joined with me in urging the Federal Government to fix this mess. Let me know quote her, “All we are asking is, don’t make these people worse off then they were.” The Governor’s office has been flooded with calls. She also stated that, “some of these calls we get into the office are are very, very concerning. Some of these people say they’d rather take their own life than deal with this situation.” This does not sound like things are getting better and the kinks are being worked out.



Congress promised in 2003, access to affordable prescription drug coverage, this is not the deal they are getting today. We know these problems cannot be done through administrative actions alone. We also have an obligation to act and not follow CMS.



I urge my Colleagues to support this amendment and send a message to those who are living in fear that Congress will not wait to do the right thing.”