Nov 25 2003

Graham Rejects Medicare Prescription Drug Bill

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today voted against legislation adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 54 to 44. It will now be sent to President Bush for his signature. “Some are calling this bill the greatest thing since sliced bread,” said Graham. “I think it’s going to be more like New Coke. Sounds like a great idea until you actually try it.” “We’re adding another floor to a house that isn’t built on a stable foundation,” said Graham. “Medicare is already scheduled to go bankrupt. Reform of the Medicare system and adding a prescription drug benefit were supposed to go hand-in-hand. Instead of sticking with that approach, we went 180 degrees the other way by adding a costly new benefit and dropping reform.” Graham voted against the original Senate proposal but remained hopeful over the past several months that the House-Senate conference committee would produce a plan that offered real reform and a prescription drug benefit for seniors. He said there were some aspects of the conference report he supported such as the provisions means-testing benefits for wealthy seniors, health savings accounts giving seniors more control over their healthcare, and some preventative health measures. Additionally, Graham supported repealing cuts in Medicare reimbursements for doctors’ services and support for rural hospitals. But on balance, the provisions Graham supported were limited in scope and not enough to garner his support for the bill. Graham noted several shortcomings of the bill including:
  • Lack of effective cost containment. Graham expressed real concerns the cost of the program, estimated to cost approximately $400 billion over the next 10 years, could spiral upward at a much greater rate than predicted. He noted the bill contained many ‘donut holes,’ gaps in coverage, and that future Congress’ will push to close these holes thereby increasing costs.
  • Lack of real reform. Medicare as it’s currently structured is a government command-and-controlled health care plan. Seniors currently lack any real choice in Medicare and the bill didn’t offer them enough freedom over their health care.
“At the end of the day, I believe prescription drug use will explode and the reforms will be restricted,” said Graham. “The few reforms in the bill will give way to a political effort to increase spending because the program as structured allows uncontrolled expansion. Medicare is already is serious jeopardy. I am afraid we’re simply tacking a new benefit onto a broken system that America’s grandchildren cannot afford. “I support giving senior citizens access to affordable prescription drugs, and modernizing Medicare to make it work in the 21st century,” said Graham. “In order to provide comprehensive coverage, including prescription drugs, Medicare must be reformed to make it more efficient and less of a red-tape bound bureaucracy. I’m truly disappointed we didn’t accomplish those objectives in this bill. We missed a golden opportunity.” ####