June 26,2003

Statement of U.S. Senator Max Baucus Medicare: Looking Toward Final Passage

Statement of U.S. Senator Max Baucus

Medicare: Looking Toward Final Passage

The hour of final passage of landmark Medicare prescription drug legislation is near. Lateyesterday, we reached an agreement on the distribution of the remaining $12 billion of availablefunding. With this agreement, the Senate got the wind back in its sails, which will hopefullyallow for smooth sailing toward final passage.

Yesterday's agreement to split the $12 billion down the middle and provide $6 billion totraditional Medicare demonstrations and $6 billion to PPO demonstrations mirrors the balanceand symmetry in the underlying bill.

I'd like to thank Chairman Grassley, and my colleagues on both sides, for workingtogether and being open to compromise over the last few weeks of negotiations. We're workingin virtually a 50-50 Senate, which means that the needs of both sides have to be consideredequally.

But throughout all of our negotiations, it's vital that we never forget who we're doing this for-- our nation's seniors. Folks who have spent their lives working hard, raising their families, payingtheir taxes. It's important that they have a solid Medicare program, with prescription drug coverage,that they can rely on. It's important that we get Medicare reform right and I believe that bycontinuing to work together we will.

And for seniors in my state, I've worked hard to make sure Medicare reform works in ruralAmerica. Chairman Grassley shares this goal. The Medicare legislation that the Senate will soonpass will not force seniors into private plans that don't work for them. In my state of Montana, thereare many regions where private plans just don't exist. These rural seniors must have access to agovernment fallback for their Medicare health insurance and prescription drug coverage. This billmakes sure that they will.

I'm also proud of the work we've done to help low income seniors have access to high qualitymedical care and drug coverage. We've included common sense protections that won't let lowerincome folks fall through the cracks.

I believe we'll look back on June 26, 2003 as an important day in the history of Americanhealth care. This isn't a perfect bill and doesn’t contain everything I would have liked it to. But itsets up an important framework. A framework that will allow our seniors to afford the prescriptiondrugs they need to maintain a high quality of life. In the coming years, as more funds becomeavailable, I look forward to building upon this legislation and filling in some of the gaps.As is often said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." The passage ofthe Senate's Medicare prescription drug legislation begins us on the journey toward effective,comprehensive Medicare reform. Our seniors will soon have access to the health care andprescription drug coverage they deserve.