Third Congressional District Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Anniston) discussed the plan during a recent breakfast meeting at Fibber’s in Cedar Bluff this past weekend, hosted by the local Republican Executive Committee.
“Most people refer to it as a prescription drug bill,” said Rogers. “Understand, the prescription drug component of that bill was only one component. It was a very big factor and it meant a lot. There was no issue when I ran for this congressional seat that I heard more about when I moved around the district than this. It didn’t matter if I was talking to rich folks, poor folks, black folks, white folks, old folks, young folks, it didn’t matter. If they weren’t struggling with prescription drug costs, they had a mother or daddy that were or somebody in their church, somebody they knew. It was the number one issue. When I got to congress, I found out the same thing was happening all across the country.”
This legislation, Rogers said, is the most significant piece of legislation out of the United States Congress since the early 1960s.
“When Medicare was adopted, they didn’t add a prescription drug component because people didn’t take prescription medications back then like they do now,” said Rogers. “Medicine has changed dramatically. If you had a baby in the 1960s, you would be in the hospital for a week. Now you are lucky if they let you spend the night! If you went in for surgery, you might be in there for a week or two. Now it is same day surgery. Health care has changed, but one thing you see now that you didn’t see in the early 1960s is that medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs.”
Congress took these changes into account in approving this new legislation, Rogers said.
“I hear people telling horror stories,” said Rogers. “I heard people say, ‘I only get $860 a month and my prescription drug bills are $2,000 a month and in some cases a lot more.’ What I want you to know about the prescription drug component of that bill at a minimum is this: If a senior citizen likes their Medicare plan just the way it is, they don’t have to worry because nothing has changed as far as their core Medicare benefits. It is exactly what it always was. We didn’t disturb anything in the Medicare program. We just added a prescription drug component on top of it.”
Another attack on the plan, Rogers said, is the $35 per month premium charge and the $250 deductible.
“It does require that,” said Rogers. “If you are not poor. If you are poor, if you are a single person making less than $13,000 a year, you don’t pay the deductible and you don’t pay the monthly premium. It’s free for the first roughly $2,400 of your prescription drug expenses. If it didn’t do anything else, that’ pretty good! If it didn’t do anything else, that’ more than we had before we passed the plan. But after you get to $2,400, it doesn’t cover any of your prescription drugs until the next couple of thousand. Then when you get to $5,000 in prescription drug expenses for that year, it covers 95 percent of all your prescription drugs for the rest of the year. The great thing about the plan, is we’ve got one. This new Medicare reform, Rogers said, also changes the reimbursement formula for hospitals.
Currently, rural hospitals receive only a fraction of what urban hospitals receive. As a result, Alabama will receive some $126 million more per year.
“When you got your first car, I bet you would have loved to have had a brand new Cadillac,” said Rogers. “But how many people got a brand new Cadillac when you got your first car? Most of you got a good used Chevy or Ford, but it was a vehicle. And it got the job done, and then you worked on getting a better car as you got older and got experience and got a job. Well that is the way I want you to view this prescription drug plan.”
The plan, Rogers said, helps those who are struggling and eliminates those who do not need assistance with their health care costs.
“Your eligibility is determined by your income,” said Rogers. “If you are a couple and you make $170,000 a year or more, you don’t get to participate in the prescription drug plan. You don’t need a prescription drug plan. What we are going for is trying to get help to people in this country who are really struggling.”
“I personally like it,” said Rogers. “I think it’s a great thing. I think it is just going to get better.