Statement by AARP CEO Bill Novelli on the Need for Prescription-Drug Coverage in Medicare

We’re at a very important point in the history of Medicare—the most important since its inception in 1965. We are pleased that both parties in both Houses of Congress have committed to prescription-drug coverage in Medicare and that progress is being made. We are encouraged that Congress is moving forward with mark ups next week in the Senate and the week after in the House. Our understanding is that both bills have:

– A universal benefit that provides the same coverage for those in traditional Medicare and those in new plans

– Protection for those with low incomes and people with high drug expenses

– A chronic-care management program and preventive benefits that will help improve Medicare’s ability to deliver care in the future

Congress came close to getting this done last year, and we have been working hard to succeed this year. Since Congress took up this issue last year, some things have changed:

– Drugs cost more

– Retiree coverage has declined

– People are more impatient because they are hurting more

We have had a long, continuous dialogue with our members on this issue. We have listened to them and have a clear understanding of what they need. Here’s what they tell us they need:

– Access to coverage for everyone in Medicare

– Affordable out-of-pocket costs

– Gaps in coverage kept to an absolute minimum

– Reasonable and affordable cost sharing

– Protection from continuing rises in already-high drug costs

Our members can’t afford further stalemate. They need legislation this year. On the basis of all of this, and on behalf of our members and all other older Americans and those with disabilities, we will keep working to improve coverage in this legislation and to keep Medicare strong so that seniors, now and in the future, can continue to rely on it.

Our members have been vocal on this, and you can expect to hear their voices as they speak out on this issue. Congress can expect many thousands of call and contacts to their offices. Our members will be saying they want:

– Legislation enacted this year—no more stalemate

– Stronger coverage

– And, for Medicare to remain strong so they and future generations can continue to rely on it for their health-care needs.

Enacting a workable Medicare prescription-drug bill is far-sighted legislation. It’s an excellent investment in America’s future as Medicare beneficiaries double over the coming years—both in terms of quality of life and out economy as well as federal and state budgets.