November 25,2003

Baucus Statement on Passage of Medicare Prescription Drug Legislation

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senator Max Baucus issued the following statement following thesuccessful passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act:

Each year Congress considers hundreds of pieces of legislation. But rarely do we havethe opportunity to pass a bill that has the power to as significantly affect millions of people'slives for the better as the bill we just passed will.

I am proud and honored to have been part of writing, negotiating, and finally passing ofthe Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act. For the first time in our nation's history,our seniors will have universal, voluntary access to assistance with the cost of prescription drugs.No longer will they have to make dire choices between food and medicine. No longer will theyhave to ration their doses to make their medications last.

The final Senate and House Medicare compromise bill is a successful tapestry of manyviewpoints. I owe thanks to the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley,and to the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Bill Thomas. Senate MajorityLeader Frist played a pivotal role in the final days of the negotiations and Senator John Breauxand I served together as the Senate Democrats at the bargaining table. I would also like to thankSenator Edward Kennedy and I am disappointed that he was unable to support the final bill. Hisexpertise was essential in the creation and passage of the Senate version of the Medicare bill.

I look forward to seeing this bill change seniors lives -- in this generation and forgenerations to come. Our bill will ensure all seniors have affordable access to the drugs theyneed to get healthy and stay healthy. Starting in 2004, seniors will have access to prescriptiondrug discount cards, with full bene fits going into effect in 2006. Low- income beneficiaries willsee especially generous benefits and those who qualify for Medicaid will also have access to theMedicare drug benefit.

For my state of Montana, I am especially pleased by the funding and assistance ruralAmerica will soon receive. This is the largest package ever considered by Congress for ruralAmerica, with $25 billion in funding. Payment equity will be established, once and for all, forrural doctors and hospitals. It's only fair that rural and urban health care providers receive equalreimbursement levels for equal work.

The most important accomplishment we achieved with today's historic Medicareprescription drug vote is that we utilized the $400 billion that was set aside for our nation'sseniors. This funding opportunity may not have come our way again for a long time.Now, is this a perfect bill? No.

But will it help seniors afford the prescription drugs they need to get and stay healthy?YES. And that's the bottom line. We now have the opportunity to build, improve and streamlineour Medicare prescription drug program. By working together, we have achieved a bannervictory for seniors across the nation. This is a landmark day and I'm proud to have been a part of it.