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Rep Cole Supports Bipartisan Medicare Plan; Gives Seniors Discount Card for Medicines

November 21, 2003
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – The bipartisan Medicare Conference Report (H.R. 1) grants all 523,409 Medicare beneficiaries in Oklahoma access to a voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit – for the first time in the history of the Medicare program. The Medicare legislation that passed the U.S. House today strengthens and improves the 40-year old Medicare program and contains an extensive rural benefits package.

"Providing vital medicines to our seniors is really the heart of this bill," Congressman Cole said. "Eighty percent of America's retirees use a prescription drug every day and these medicines are increasing in price every year. It is necessary that we pass a prescription drug benefit now so our seniors can afford the medicines they need to stay healthy."

Within six months after the bill is signed, Oklahoma residents will be eligible for prescription discount cards, which will provide them with savings between 10 and 25 percent off the retail price of most medicines. Those with incomes less than $12,123 ($16,362 for couples) who lack prescription drug coverage (including drug coverage under Medicaid) will get up to $600 in annual assistance to help them afford their medicines.  

Beginning in 2006, all 523,409 Medicare beneficiaries living in Oklahoma will be eligible to get prescription drug coverage through a Medicare-approved plan.  In exchange for a monthly premium of about $35, seniors who are now paying the full retail price for prescription drugs will be able to cut their drug costs roughly in half.  In many cases, they’ll save more than 50 percent on what they pay for their prescription medicines. Those under a certain income level will  be responsible for a nominal co-payment (no more than $2 for generic drugs or $5 for brand name drugs) for their medicines.

Preventive care, wellness measures and chronic care management included in this bill will help seniors live longer, healthier lives. 

Additionally, the creation of new, portable Health Savings Accounts will allow Americans to save money for their future health care needs on a tax-free basis.

These Health Savings Accounts will make it easier for small businesses to provide health care to their employees.

"In many ways this is the most revolutionary aspect of this legislation. This allows individuals to accumulate resources to provide themselves with first-rate medical care," Congressman Cole said.

The agreement contains the most generous package Congress has considered for rural and suburban health care.  Additionally, seniors will have better access to doctors, hospitals and crucial treatment options, regardless of where they live. The rural provisions will provide an estimated $54,501,090 for rural and suburban hospitals in the Fourth Congressional District over a 10-year period.

"The benefits for rural and suburban hospitals is a key selling point of this legislation," Congressman Tom Cole. "Large, urban hospitals have been paid a higher reimbursement rate than other hospitals since 1983.  This legislation will equalize the payments so that rural and suburban hospitals will receive the funds they need to serve the people living in lower populated areas. Stronger rural hospitals will mean more jobs and more services to the people living in those towns."

"Is this legislation perfect? No, but it is a first step in the right direction," Congressman Cole said. "This is a first attempt at strengthening and improving Medicare since its start 40 years ago. We might have to improve things over time, but I think we've made a good start."

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