Seniors Celebrate Medicare - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Paragould
Melissa Simas Reports

Seniors Celebrate Medicare

July 30, 2003 - Posted at: 4:36 p.m. CDT

PARAGOULD, Ark. -- Region 8 seniors, and other across the nation are blowing out birthday candles for a government program that could end up significantly changed by 2010.

Wednesday, the Northeast Arkansas chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons celebrated Medicare's 38th birthday in Paragould, calling on Congress to pass a meaningful prescription drug benefit.

"We insist on a provision that covers rural areas such as the First District of Arkansas," said Mark Johnson of the local AARP. "Where you might not have as many companies wishing to compete for the coverage in this area."

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed bills that would add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Currently, members of both the house and senate are in committee trying to reconcile differences. Congressman Marion Berry is one of three Democrats on the committee.

"The bad news is they were both bad bills," Berry said.

According to Berry, the House and Senate versions were nothing but political documents trying to make seniors think relief is on the way.

"This bill was written to help the insurance companies," Berry said. "The drug companies, and the large employers in this company."

Berry says the good news in the Medicare battle is that the re-importation bill passed the house last week. This bill will allow American seniors access to prescription medicine at an international price. The senate still has to vote on it.

Berry says the conference committee still has a lot of work to do on these bills, and he says one of the biggest issues that doesn't get talked about is the possibility that Medicare will end in 2010 according to the House version.

"The chairman of the House committee," Berry said. "Has said publicly and repeatedly that it is his intention to do away with Medicare. So I know, what this country looked like before Medicare. I don't want to see that again and no nation can be responsible that does not provide healthcare for its seniors."

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