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Stark Outlines New Medicare Benefits

May 28, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Here is the text of the Democratic Party’s weekly radio address, as delivered Saturday by Rep. Fortney H. Stark of California:

Hello, I’m Congressman Pete Stark of Oakland, Calif. I chair the health subcommitteee of the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the Medicare system in the United States. And this week, Congress agreed to the first major expansion of Medicare benefits in over 20 years.

Before I explain that landmark legislation, let me give credit where credit is due. It was President Reagan who, a year ago last February, suggested in his State of the Union message that it was necessary to enact this legislation.

His secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Otis Bowen, picked up the challenge and presented Congress with an outline of a plan which Republican Congressman Bill Gradison of Cincinnati, Ohio and I took and formed into the Stark-Gradison Bill of the Catastrophic Health Bill which passed the conference committee last week.

What did all this do? Well, let me tell my mom, because I want to put it in terms she’ll understand, and then maybe you’ll all understand.

Mom, you’ve got Medicare now, and under the hospital, or Part A, benefits, it’s pretty confusing. You have to pay the first day’s hospital bill of $540. Then you get the first 60 days care, then from 60 to 90 days you’ve got to pay $135 a day. Then from 90 to 150 days - you get a lifetime exemption of those 60 days - you’ve got to pay $270, and after that you have to pay the whole bill. You could pay $20,000 or even thousands more than that out of your own pocket.

Under our bill, you just pay once in a year the $540 for your first day in the hospital, and Medicare pays the rest. Simple? You bet.

As to doctor’s bills, you have to pay the first $75 and then you have to pay 20 percent of every bill that doctor sends you. You could pay thousands in a year. Under our bill, you still pay the $75, and then you must pay $1,440 out of your pocket, but after your $1,440 out-of-pocket, Medicare pays the rest.

Now, you’ve got to remember, you go to a doctor who takes assignment or participates, so that you’re not charged more than the Medicare approved rate.

And there’s a new benefit. A drug benefit. You have prescription drugs in a year and previously you’ve received no help. After you’ve spent $600 on precription drugs in one year under our bill, the government will pay 80 percent of everything over $600 when the bill is fully implemented.

There’s a new benefit that might help me if I were caring for you someday - in your home. It’s called respite care. And the bill will provide 80 hours of professional home care for you so that I or my brother or anyone else who might be taking care of you could get a day off or have a vacation with their family. We think that’s a wonderful added benefit.

A special benefit ffor you, Mom, is the new mammography benefit which allows you to have a mammographic examination every other year, and you should do it. It’s the first time we’ve added real preventive care benefits to Medicare.

And for those couples who are together and one of them has to go to a nursing home under the Medicaid program, we’ve protected the other, or surviving, or healthy spouse from impoverishment. We’ve allowed them to keep some assets and a minimum income so that they don’t have to spend their entire assets and income for one spouse leaving the healthy spouse destitute. We think that’s a big help.

But I know you’re saying, Mom, ″Gee, Pete, you’re a liberal Democrat, and who’s gonna pay for all this?″ Well, I’m happy to say, Mom, you do. It won’t cost the Treasury one penny. You’re going to pay $4 a month, and eventually it will go up to $10 a month in a flat premium. If you became impoverished, Medicaid would be required to pay the premium and your co-pay. So low-income people will pay nothing.

If you’re around $75,000 a year, you’d have to pay as high as $80 a month. But remember, you’d saved $25 to $50 a month in Medigap policy premiums, so that you really, in general, would have a super benefit. It’s not long-term care, but it’s a major improvement in paying hospital, doctor and druggist bills.

So drive safely this Memorial Day Weekend, and I hope your new benefit makes you comfortable.

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