Nevada Sentors Vote Against Medicare Bill

Senator Harry Reid
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Nevada Sens. Harry Reid, a Democrat, and John Ensign, a Republican, both said Monday that they were voting against a $400 billion Medicare reform bill sought by President Bush - but for completely different reasons.

Reid said the legislation would leave many seniors worse off and would undermine the foundations of the Medicare program. Ensign said the legislation was fiscally irresponsible.

Both said they supported a prescription drug benefit for seniors - but not the way it was being offered in the bill approaching final passage in the Senate on Monday night.

"This bill would make a wide-range of seniors worse off than they are - seniors who are eligible for Medicaid, seniors who have coverage through former employers, seniors enrolled in state pharmacy programs, and seniors who will be forced to pay higher premiums to stay in traditional Medicare," Reid said in a statement.

"Surely this isn't what seniors had in mind when they asked Congress to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit."

Ensign announced his opposition on the Senate floor.

"While providing seniors with a prescription drug benefit is so very important to all of us, it must be done in a way that does not bankrupt Medicare and threaten future access to the care in our country for our seniors," he said. "And it also needs to be fiscally responsible to the next generation."

Ensign said he believed the cost of the bill, although huge, "is grossly underestimated," noting that the number of Medicare recipients is growing, while there will be relatively fewer people in the work force to support them.

The legislation would give seniors a new drug benefit long sought by Democrats, combined with a Republican-backed plan to give private insurance companies a vast new role in health care for the program's beneficiaries.

The legislation passed the House, with Nevada's delegation split along party lines. Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat voted against it, and Republicans Jim Gibbons and John Porter cast votes in favor.