February 23,2006

Grassley Calls Political Exploitation of Medicare Drug Benefit “Unconscionable


To: Reporters and Editors
Fr: Jill Gerber for Chairman Grassley, 202/224-6522
Re: Partisan attacks on Medicare drug benefit
Da: Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006

Certain Democrats are stepping up their efforts to criticize the new Medicare prescription
drug benefit, even though many of them proposed and even voted for legislation with many of the
same elements as in the new law. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the assistant minority leader, last
week promised “hundreds” of events across the nation to promote the party’s efforts to criticize the
drug program, according to media reports. Meanwhile, the new drug benefit is gaining popularity
and new enrollment, even in the home states of Democratic senators and House members who are
critical of the new drug benefit. According to calculations by staff for Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman
of the Committee on Finance, with jurisdiction over Medicare, 35 percent of eligible Illinois
Medicare beneficiaries who did not have a prior source of prescription drug coverage have
voluntarily enrolled in Medicare Part D stand-alone drug plans. The number of Nevada beneficiaries
voluntarily enrolled in Medicare Part D stand-alone drug plans went up 52 percent in one month. The
number of California beneficiaries voluntarily enrolled went up 51 percent in one month. Grassley
made the following comment on these developments.

“It’s clear that the word is getting out about the money people can save when they sign up
for Medicare prescription drug coverage. Good news sure does travel fast. The strong increases over
the last month in the number of Medicare beneficiaries who have voluntarily signed up for Medicare
Part D stand-alone prescription drug plans show that the new benefit is appealing. Enrollment in the
stand-alone plans is the best way we have to gauge voluntary enrollment in the new prescription drug
benefit. I hope to see this trend in enrollment growth continue. And it’s unconscionable for any
senators or House members to try to scare people away from a desperately needed benefit just to
score cheap political points. Surely getting re-elected isn’t worth scaring and exploiting innocent

See the printer-friendly version of this release for two tables from Chairman Grassley’s Finance Committee staff.

The first
column in each table was obtained by dividing the number of beneficiaries in stand-alone plans by
the number of beneficiaries in the state less the number of beneficiaries who had a prior source of
prescription drug coverage. The number of beneficiaries who had a prior source of prescription drug
coverage includes dual eligible beneficiaries, and those in FEHBP, Tricare or Veterans Health or
employer-sponsored coverage. In addition, the number includes beneficiaries in Medicare
Advantage prescription drug plans. Some, but not all, beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans
were “passively” enrolled in a Medicare-Advantage Prescription Drug Plan. As a result, this
approach actually underestimates the percent of beneficiaries who voluntarily enrolled in a
prescription drug plan. The second column in each table indicates the percentage increase in standalone
Part D plan enrollment from January to February.