Sen. Lincoln Addresses Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

January 10, 2004 -- Posted at 4:49 p.m. CST

WEST MEMPHIS -- Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln was at Crittenden County Memorial Hospital in West Memphis on Saturday, to discuss the new prescription drug benefit plan that was added by congress to Medicare last month.

"It's very complicated legislation. So it's necessary that people get a chance to ask questions about it and listen to what the legislation actually means," said Ross Hooper, CEO of Administration for Crittenden County Memorial Hospital.

The new Medicare drug benefit law represents a $400-billion expansion of the Medicare program...and though the voluntary drug benefit won't go into effect until 2006... folks in Region 8 said they could hardly wait.

Senator Blanche Lincoln said, "The way we designed this law was to really reach out and provide assistance to the sickest and the neediest in our communities...those who are using an extremely large amount of prescription drugs as well as those who are extremely low income. Arkansas meets that criteria."

A packed house sat in on the discussion forum, submitting questions to Senator Lincoln, and plenty of concerned Arkansans wanted answers to what the new benefits will do for them.

Jericho Mayor Helan Adams wanted answers from Senator Lincoln.

"Why are they waiting so long? We've been needing help, we've had people who have been paying for medication who are older than 65 and are having to pay for everything," said Mayor Adams, "I am past 65 and I have to pay for all my medication."

Senator Lincoln said addressing both the strengths and weaknesses of this law is something important for Arkansans to know.

"We knew it wasn't going to be perfect, but we had to get started. We've spent ten years as democrats and republicans squabbling over what to do in a perfect prescription drug package through Medicare," said Senator Lincoln.

The Arkansas chapter of the AARP was also represented Saturday, and they support the new legislation.

Cecil Malone, AARP state president said, "I think it's something that once everybody understands how it is going to help. The ones who are opposed to this right now are the people who have pretty good drug coverage, and they don't want anything interfering with that."

You can calculate the estimated impact of the new Medicare prescription drug law on the AARP web site. For more information, simply log onto: