AARP calls passage of bill historic

AARP calls passage of bill historic AARP is pleased to see the United States Senate join the United States House of Representatives in passing the most comprehensive benefit enhancement to Medicare in 38 years.

"Today is truly an historic day for the health security of the American people" said William Novelli, CEO of AARP. "For the first time since 1965, Medicare has been expanded to provide important prescription drug coverage and financial relief for millions of older and disabled Americans and their families.

AARP thanks Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, AARP members and all those who worked tirelessly to make this day possible. We should all take special incomes, as well as those with high drug costs. In addition, the bill will provide some additional relief to millions more in Medicare and also provide preventive care, chronic disease management and other measures to improve health care."

The benefit will provide all of the 122,283 beneficiaries in South Dakota with access to a Medicare prescription drug benefit � for the first time in the history of the Medicare program � beginning in January 2006. The most generous part of the bill will go to those under the greatest financial hardship.

South Dakotas 37,314 beneficiaries who have limited saving and low incomes generally below 135 percent of poverty, ($12,123 for individuals and $16,232 for couples in 2003) will pay no premium for their prescription drug coverage. and they will be responsible for a nominal co-payment (no more than $2 for generic drugs or $5 for brand name drugs).

In addition, the state's is 10,411 low-income beneficiaries with limited savings and incomes below 150 percent of poverty ($13,470 for individuals and $18,180 for couples in 2003) will qualify for reduced premiums, a $50 deductible, 15 percent coinsurance, and no gaps in coverage.

"Prescription drug accessibility and affordability has been the number one public policy priority for AARP nationally and for our members in South Dakota," Sam Wilson, said AARP South Dakota associate state director for advocacy. "Medicare has served an important purpose over the last 38 years, in concert with Social Security, to keep our nation's older citizens free from the poverty that generations before them felt in their later years. This bill reaffirms that mission by focusing the benefit toward those whose financial security is most threatened by their prescription drug needs.

As soon as the president puts pen to paper, AARP will dedicate itself to educating our members on this new voluntary benefit. While we have worked extensively to get the job done this year, there is no doubt that we will be a watchdog for members and non-members alike to make sure that these new provisions truly do improve the lives of Medicare beneficiaries and serve to strengthen the underlying bedrock of the Medicare program."

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