Parties split on drug bill passage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 30, 2002

BNI Newswire

The late-hour passage of a prescription drug bill in the U.S. House drew praise from Republicans ­ and opposition from a Democratic contender for the Third Congressional District.

The plan, which would provide for a $320 billion private insurance system to begin in three years, was passed after midnight Friday.

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"It’s simply unacceptable that 13 million seniors do not have prescription drug coverage," said U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, the GOP contender for Alabama governor.

"The bottom line is this: No American should be forced to choose between paying their power bills and buying prescription drugs needed to keep them alive and healthy. This bill will help ensure that’s a choice no senior citizen or low-income family will have to face."

According to Riley, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the average American senior citizen will have prescription drug costs of $2,150 in 2002. The plan the House passed drops that amount to $1,210 annually.

Under the GOP-backed House plan, beneficiaries would pay a combination of premiums, deductibles and copayments for the first $2,000 in prescription costs.

They would then have to pay for medications until out-pf-pocket expenses reached $3,700 per year.

But Democrats – including Third District candidate Joe Turnham – charge the GOP plan favors drug companies.

"Passing the plan that sides more with special interests that with senior citizens is not consistent with Alabama values," Turnham said. "Instead of putting medication into the hands of seniors, the Republican plan keeps big profits pouring into the pockets of big drug companies, HMOs and insurance companies."

Senate Democrats have their own, more costly plan – a $500 billion bill to create a government-run prescription drug benefit. Under that plan, according to The Associated Press, beneficiaries would pay a $25 monthly premium with no deductible. Generic drugs would carry a $10 copayment, with a $40 copay for brand-name drugs.

The Democrats’ plan caps out-of-pocket expenditures at $4,000.