Congressional Action May Jeopardize Drug Benefits

April 25, 2001 ( - Retirees could forfeit some of the prescription drug coverage they get from retirement or state plans if Medicare added a drug benefit, according to testimony for the Senate Finance Committee.

Currently, though Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, a third of the 39 million people in the program are covered by state programs and retirement plans.

It is estimated that 20% of the companies that help retirees pay for medicines would stop that support if a federal program were instituted.

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President Bush supports a $153 billion plan to cover drugs for the poorest seniors, but wants the states to have the money to run the programs themselves

States are reluctant to bear the costs of prescription drugs for the nation’s elderly and disabled, the panel was told, and if a universal benefit is created within the Medicare program, it should be a federal benefit

A GOP-led Senate called for $300 billion of the 2002 budget to extend drug coverage to all Medicare recipients earlier this month, but many seniors remain concerned that they’ll lose their current benefits to whatever the federal government may offer.

Seniors with prescription-drug coverage may pay as little as $5 for generic medicines, and $10 to $14 for brand-name drugs and are worried that Congress will change this.