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Rep. John Lewis Says Extend Deadline for Medicare Prescription Drug Program

May 15, 2006
Press Release

Today is the last day for eligible citizens to sign-up for the Medicare prescription drug program, known as Medicare Part D. Though Congressman Lewis agrees that a prescription drug program is a necessary Medicare benefit, he believes that Part D is deeply flawed legislation that needs to be fixed. Numerous news reports on the implementation of this benefit reveal it is incredibly confusing, so confusing many physicians and attorneys cannot comprehend the program.

This confusion is compounded by the fact that the Medicare Hotline, a service supposed to help seniors navigate the program's complexities, has been found by the GAO to deliver faulty responses to seniors' questions. Further, most seniors are still unaware that they will be penalized at the rate of 1% per month if they do not sign-up by today's deadline.

"Healthcare should be considered a right in America," said Rep. Lewis, "not a privilege. It should not depend upon the size of a person's wallet or the numbers in a zip code. I firmly believe that all Americans need and deserve to have access to medical coverage in order to ensure the `life, liberty and pursuit of happiness' that our government is supposed to enable."

"However, this legislation penalizes the poor, the sick, the elderly and the disabled more than it helps. Half of seniors are unaware that they need to sign up by today, and only a quarter of those who need it the most have enrolled. Americans need to question their representatives to find out whom this Congress serves. Is it interested in serving the health insurance industry above American citizens? If its goal is to serve the people, then the answer is simple. We need to extend the deadline for this prescription drug program and waive the penalties until beneficiaries can make informed choices about whether to participate. Finally, we need to fix this prescription drug benefit so that it meets the needs of the vulnerable American citizens it is meant to protect."

Links to Relevant Reading on the Subject
[USA Today, 4/25/06]
[Wall Street Journal. 5/4/06]
[GAO Report on Medicare Part D]
[Washington Post, 5/10/06]