February 15,2001

Grassley Statement on Medicare at the Budget Committee

Senator Chuck Grassley

Budget Committee Hearing on Medicare Reform and Prescription Drugs

Opening Statement

Thursday, February 15, 2001

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this hearing. The need for a modernized Medicare program is an issue close to my heart; and I'm not just saying that because yesterday was Valentine's Day.

As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I have committed myself to work with Senator Baucus and our committee members to create legislation that effectively updates Medicare and adds a responsible and affordable drug benefit to the program.

Within the context of the budget, let me say a couple of things. First, adding a drug benefit to the Medicare program - without taking a hard look at the program itself - is like building a new addition onto an old house. The addition might spruce the place up, but it does nothing to address the building's structural integrity. It is in Medicare's best interest to consider the program as a whole, and in that context determine how best to strengthen the existing Medicare infrastructure to handle the demands of any new benefit.

Under the chairmanship of Senator Roth, the Finance Committee laid the foundation for Medicare modernization and the addition of a drug benefit. It is my responsibility to move the discussion forward, and today's hearing is important in that regard. Medicare's financial health goes far beyond the status of the Part A trust fund. We must keep this in mind at every turn as we move forward in our process. We will achieve nothing by adding a drug benefit that effectively bankrupts the program.

Another concern of mine is the need to tailor legislative efforts to the reality of a rapidly changing health care environment. Bureaucracy and innovation do not mix, and it would be folly for Congress to tie the hands of those seeking to bring more effective and efficient medical solutions which will improve the health and well-being of the Medicare population.

We have an opportunity to impact seniors from the small towns of Iowa to the urban areas of the East and West Coasts. I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses, and I thank you for your attention to this critical matter.