CASTOR DELIVERS ON HER PROMISE TO BRING RELIEF FOR SENIORS
Tampa, Jan 12 -
U.S. Representative Kathy Castor today delivered on her promise to bring relief for seniors in the Tampa Bay area by urging her colleagues to require the Bush Administration to negotiate prescription drug prices under Medicare Part D.
Castor learned firsthand the impact upon seniors of the ill conceived and expensive plan over the last year in a series of assistance sessions with seniors and Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders (SHINE) volunteers in community libraries and public halls in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.
“In my district in the Tampa Bay area, one in about seven residents is dependent upon Medicare for their health care needs,” said Castor in her remarks on the House floor this morning. “Over the past year I assisted seniors who were struggling with the complicated and confusing Part D. Many are frustrated with choosing from 43 different HMO drug plans. They do not like being forced into HMOs. They have not received straightforward assistance from the Bush Administration.”
When Part D came online some services like transportation to dialysis treatment centers were discontinued in Florida. Castor worked locally to provide emergency assistance for those patients in Tampa and deal with other consequences of Part D.
“It is unfair that HMOs and drug companies are making huge profits. In the last congress, Part D was crafted to benefit the HMOs and insurance companies and not our seniors,” Castor said. “Our government must have the authority to negotiate fair drug prices for our seniors, like the Veterans Administration has done since 1992. Even former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said that he would have liked to have had the opportunity to negotiate.”
A recent Families USA study found that for half of the 20 most prescribed drugs for seniors, VA prices are much lower than the lowest prices charged by the largest Part D insurers. The median difference between the lowest VA drug price and the lowest Part D drug is 58 percent.
“How can we justify a percentage gap in drug prices that large to our seniors, who like our veterans, have contributed their talent and skills to fulfill the promise of this country? They too deserve the most affordable drugs needed to keep them engaged in their family and community back home,” she said. “Upon passage of this bill our elders and other taxpayers will know that I heard and took to heart their pleas for help.”