June 27,2003

Statement of U.S. Senator Max Baucus Baucus, Co-Author of Landmark Medicare Reform Legislation, Hails Passage of Bill

Statement of U.S. Senator Max Baucus

Baucus, Co-Author of Landmark Medicare Reform Legislation, Hails Passage of BillThis is a historic day. With the Senate passage of Medicare prescription drug legislation, we aremoving closer toward the first significant reform of the Medicare program since it s enactment in 1965.Most importantly, we will be providing America's seniors with access to affordable prescription drugcoverage. This accomplishment has been a long time in coming.

I am honored to be the Ranking Member on a Committee that has a Chairman who is socommitted to passing legislation in an open, even ha nded manner. Chairman Grassley and I remainedin lockstep throughout this entire process. From the drafting of the bill to releasing the mark toCommittee action and throughout two weeks of Senate floor negotiations. I could not be luckier tohave as a chairman of my committee somebody with the quality, intelligence and the good character ofthe senator from Iowa.

Today's vote marks an important milestone in health care history. But it is just the beginning. Thereis much work left to do throughout conference with the House and even when the bill becomes effective.Each of us here today has a commitment to make sure this legislation will work on the ground as we'veenvisioned it on paper. The bill we've passed will set up an important framework. A framework that willallow our seniors to afford the prescription drugs they need to maintain a high quality of life. In thecoming years, as more funds become available, I look forward to building upon this legislation and fillingin some of the gaps.

A very important aspect of this Medicare legislation that both Chairman Grassley and I remainedfocused on was leveling the playing field for rural and urban seniors. Too often, seniors in rural parts ofour country don't have access to the same level of care or benefits as their urban counterparts. This bill willensure that rural seniors will always have access to a traditional Medicare government fallback if privateplans don't exist in their areas. We'll also strengthen rural health care in other ways, suc h as makingimprovements to programs such as Critical Access Hospitals and equalizing reimbursement payments forrural and urban providers.

This bill isn't everything I would have liked it to be. But it's a good start and we must startsomewhere. The passage of Medicare prescription drug legislation tonight means that we're one stepcloser to ensuring that our seniors never have to choose between food and medicine because of the highcosts of prescription drugs.

As I optimistically stated many weeks ago, the stars are in alignment this year for passage ofMedicare reform. With today's vote, I continue to be optimistic that the stars will remain aligned as wemove toward enactment.