Secretary Sebelius, Senate Dems Reveal: Despite False Republican Claims, Extreme House Budget Would Force Seniors Currently Enrolled In Medicare To Pay More For Health Care And Prescription Drugs On Day One

Millions of Seniors In “Donut-Hole” Would Pay over $9,300 more for Rx Drugs by 2020

May 19, 2011

Washington, DC — Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) revealed the immediate and devastating impact the extreme House Republicans' budget plan would have on at least four million seniors across the country.  The Republican budget would reopen the prescription drug donut hole, costing each of the four million seniors who fall into the coverage gap up to $9,300 by 2020.  In total, it would cost seniors $44 billion in prescription drug costs over this time period, including $2.2 billion next year alone.  It would also force at least one million seniors and people with disabilities to pay over $110 million more for their annual wellness visits in 2012.  

The Senators released a state-by-state report detailing the number of seniors who would be thrown back into the prescription drug donut hole, the additional costs seniors would pay for prescription drugs, and the number of Medicare enrollees who would pay more for their annual wellness visit under the Republican budget [LINK].  

"There's a right way to preserve Medicare, and that's by improving it," Secretary Sebelius said. "President Obama has begun to do just that. The Republican plan would end Medicare as we know it and impose significant costs on today's seniors and tomorrow's seniors. That is clearly the wrong way."  

"The Ryan budget jeopardizes women's health at all stages of life – it is devastating to seniors, women of child-bearing age, and even children," Senator Mikulski said. "It continues the assault on women that House Republicans began in H.R. 1. It decimates Medicare and Medicaid, but gives a bailout to rich insurance companies. This budget is so ridiculous that it's hard to take seriously, but I know they are serious. And I'm serious about stopping them."  

"Since passing their reckless budget plan, Republicans have continued to make the false claim that their plan protects Medicare benefits for seniors – this is simply not true," Senator Rockefeller said.  "Medicaid is just as important for seniors as Medicare and Social Security, and we ought to be asking Republicans why they want to slash our country's only long-term care program."  

"The Republican budget would pull the rug out from under seniors in order to finance extra tax cuts for millionaires," Senator Brown said. "If enacted, seniors would see their prescription drug costs explode and would lose access to no-cost annual wellness visits and preventive care. It would hand an $89 million prescription drug tab to split among 159,000 Ohio seniors in the first year alone. Meanwhile, seniors would see an end to Medicare as we know it through privatization. They would be handed vouchers that wouldn't cover the cost of the health services they count on – doubling their out-of-pocket costs in the first year alone."  

"With Rhode Island seniors struggling to keep up with rising costs at the pharmacy, grocery store, and gas pump, this is not the time to tamper with Medicare by reopening the doughnut hole and taking away access to free preventive screenings," Senator Whitehouse said.  "I will stand strong against efforts to increase the out-of-pocket health expenses of Rhode Island seniors."  

The Republican budget would also require that seniors pay deductibles, co-insurance, and copayments for many preventive services currently covered by Medicare, including mammograms; colorectal, cervical and prostate cancer screening; cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings; diabetes screening and flu shots.  

Background:  

Under the Republican Plan, Nearly Four Million Seniors Will Be Forced to Pay $2.2 Billion More for Prescription Drugs in 2012.  The Republican budget would "reopen" the prescription drug donut hole and cost the average senior who falls into the coverage gap approximately $9,300 between 2012 and 2020. Over that time, the Republican budget will cost seniors an estimated $44 billion in prescription drug costs, including $2.2 billion next year alone.  [HHS, 11/4/10; CBO, 3/18/11]    

Under The Republican Plan, At Least One Million Seniors and People With Disabilities Will Pay Over $110 Million More For Their Annual Wellness Visits In 2012. At least 1,000,000 seniors are expected to see their physician for an annual wellness visit in 2012. These visits are critical to positive health outcomes for seniors across the country. As a result of the Republican plan, these seniors would each pay an additional $160 for the first visit and $105 for a subsequent visit. [HHS, 3/16/11; Kaiser State Health Facts, accessed on 5/5/11]  

All Seniors Enrolled In Medicare Will Be Forced to Pay More for Health Care Services Under the Republican Plan.  The Republican plan will require that seniors pay deductibles, co-insurance, and copayments for many preventive services currently covered by Medicare; including cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies as well as annual wellness visits. Seniors could be forced to pay for many other health services that Medicare currently covers free of charge to the patient, including mammograms; colorectal, cervical and prostate cancer screening; cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings; diabetes screening and flu shots. [HHS, 11/4/10]