March 25,2003

Baucus Comments on Amendment #348; Equality for Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries

Today, I offered a very simple amendment to the budget resolution. It clarifiedthat seniors who choose to remain in traditional Medicare, which serves 89 percent of allMedicare beneficiaries, should have access to the same drug benefit level as those whoenroll in private plans.

This is a rural issue. Managed care plans and PPOs have not flourished in ruralareas. In fact, they're non-existent in many states, including Montana.

It's also a fairness issue. Medicare should not discriminate between seniors whoenroll in private plans and those who choose to remain in traditional Medicare. Last year,90 of the senators present today voted in support of this principle.

I am disappointed that my amendment was narrowly defeated this morning. But Iwill continue to work hard to ensure that all seniors -- rural and urban, those enrolled inprivate plans and those remaining in traditional Medicare -- have access to the same levelof drug benefits. It's only fair.