Berry Bashes Prescription Drug Benefit to Medicare

July 3, 2003 - Posted at: 10: 37 a.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Rural Arkansans won't get a fair deal under a Republican-backed Medicare plan, First District Representative Marion Berry told a Jonesboro audience Wednesday.

Berry, speaking to an audience at Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital, blasted the GOP-backed plan that passed the House last week by one vote. He said that, when it comes to rural seniors and medical care, they deserve a fair deal. Something he said they won't get with the Republican bill.

Both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate passed different versions of Medicare prescription drug plan changes last week.

Berry said the plan to privatize medicare through the bill, H.R. 1, only benefits HMOs and pharmaceutical companies.

"If we got a fair market price that we could pay for our medicine, it would almost eliminate the need for prescription drug benefits for senior citizens," said Berry.

The licensed pharmacist thinks Medicare does need a drug package added to it, but only if federal leaders can't find another way to lower the cost of medicine.

Figures released by the Minority Staff of the Committee on Government Reform in the U.S.House of Representatives show Americans sometimes pay about 30 percent more on average per year than patients in other countries for prescriptions.

Berry said he and other congressional delegates have been working since 1997 to get a fair international market price. A bill was signed into law at the end of President Bill Clinton's term, but the Bush administration asked the Food and Drug Administration not to let the legislation be implemented.

Both current bills will have to be reconciled before they're made into a law. Congressman Berry thinks delays caused by members of both the House and the Senate may prevent a vote.

Berry said, "It's going to be a tremendous fight politically, because the prescription drug manufacturing companies... it's estimated that they spent $100,000,000 dollars on the last election, and they'll willingly spend twice that on this election."

Marion Berry will be in Paragould at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday to talk with residents there about the same topic.