January 24,2006

Grassley Invites Colleagues to Work on Part D Problems, Meet With Medicare Officials


To: Reporters and Editors
Re: Part D implementation, Finance Committee meeting
Da: Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006

Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, today made the following
comment on how to resolve problems in the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug

“None of the implementation problems we’re seeing today have anything to do with the sixmonth
open enrollment period ending on May 15. Those who opposed the Medicare drug benefit
are now taking this opportunity to propose steps that could undermine the program. The
implementation problems are mainly logistical and administrative, but they’re causing hardship for
some of the poorest, sickest beneficiaries. This is a serious situation. It seems CMS is taking it
seriously and we all need to make sure we fix it. But delaying enrollment in May won't help deliver
prescription drugs to the people who need them now. And delaying enrollment also would likely
increase the premiums that beneficiaries have to pay for drug coverage. Prescription drug plans
based their proposals to serve Medicare beneficiaries on the enrollment period specified in the law.
Changing that schedule would affect those proposals and could lead to higher premiums. Rather
than delay help for seniors, we need to fix the problems. Medicare program officials have been and
continue to report on their efforts to make the system work as Congress intended. CMS can fix these
problems using its authority under the law and can do it faster than if Congress comes in and changes
the law. Tomorrow morning, all 20 members of the Finance Committee -- 11 Republicans and 9
Democrats -- will have the chance to hear in person from Secretary Leavitt and CMS Administrator
Mark McClellan. I've scheduled this members' meeting so all of us can direct our questions and
concerns to those in charge of the Medicare rollout and get answers. It's important for Congress to
work with the Medicare program officials to fix any problems, and I hope for high attendance at this