January 16, 2009

Whitehouse Cosponsors Plan to Help Seniors Cover Gap in Prescription Drug Coverage

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today joined Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to introduce a new plan aimed at closing the so-called Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole,” the large gap in coverage during which Medicare beneficiaries continue to pay premiums but get no coverage at all.

“As I travel around Rhode Island, I meet countless seniors who are frustrated and confused by the Part D program, and don’t understand why our government isn’t doing more to meet their very real needs for prescription drug coverage that works,” Whitehouse said. “I strongly believe Medicare should be empowered to negotiate drug prices. This is a common-sense fix that will lower seniors’ costs and give them added peace of mind.”

“The biggest injustice is that you are paying premiums and not getting the benefit,” said Nelson. “We can’t allow folks who are seeing their savings dwindle to have to chose between filling their prescriptions or paying their bills.”

Said Collins, “Under current law, seniors who are unfortunate enough to fall into the Medicare gap will be hard hit without more affordable medications. This legislation is a common sense approach to providing lower cost drugs to seniors who need them.”

The bipartisan legislation, offered by a coalition of senators, would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate bulk discounts on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries for lower drug prices and would apply the savings to diminish the size of the gap, or hole, in coverage.

Currently, Medicare pays 75 percent of initial drug costs up to $2,700 after a $295 deductible. Then, the program pays nothing until the beneficiary has spent a total for the year of $4,350. After that, coverage resumes and the beneficiary pays a small copayment for each drug until the end of the year.

Besides Nelson, Collins and Whitehouse, other cosponsors include Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI), John Kerry (D-MA), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).


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