33 Days: Dole kept seniors in the dark about Medicare Part D

DAY 33

When Congress was working on passing the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, Elizabeth Dole stood up for the special interests, not North Carolina seniors, during the debate. Once the program passed, Dole was then willing to do whatever it took to make enrollment in the program difficult, including voting against extending the enrollment deadline and keeping seniors in the dark about possible coverage gaps. But why would Dole look out for North Carolina seniors when she is in the pocket of big Pharma?

In 2003, Dole Voted To Weaken The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit While It Was Bring Debated And Crafted. While the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit was being debated and crafted in 2003, Dole sided with insurance and drug companies rather than North Carolina seniors by voting against strengthening and expanding the Medicare drug benefit. Dole opposed extending the benefit to move seniors, guaranteeing an affordable premium for seniors, protecting seniors from the coverage gap. [Vote 82, 3/25/03; Vote 159, 5/15/03; Vote 229, 6/19/03; Vote 233, 6/24/03; Associated Press, 6/24/03; Vote 236, 6/24/03; Vote 238, 6/24/03; Vote 239, 6/24/03; Washington Post, 6/25/03; Vote 240, 6/24/03; Vote 241, 6/24/03; Vote 244, 6/25/03; Vote 250, 6/26/03; Vote 253, 6/26/03; Vote 254, 6/26/03; Vote 257, 6/26/03; Vote 258, 6/26/03; Vote 259, 6/26/03; Vote 260, 6/26/03; CQ Weekly, 6/27/03]


Dole Voted To Kill Amendment That Would Have Required Part-D Enrollees To Be Made Aware Of Doughnut Hole. In November 2005, Dole voted to kill an amendment to the Budget Reconciliation bill that would have required enrollees in the Medicare Part D to be made aware of possible coverage gaps. The amendment would have required enrollees to sign a statement before enrolling that stated they were aware of the potential gap in coverage created by the “doughnut hole” in between levels of coverage, causing many enrollees to shoulder the full burden of the prescription drug costs. [Vote 297, 11/3/05]

3.4 Million Americans Affected By “Doughnut Hole,” Many Stop Taking Their Medications. According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 3.4 million enrollees in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan reached the coverage gap, commonly referred to as the “doughnut hole,” which has caused many to stop taking their medications all together. An editorial by the New York Times noted that, “for patients with serious chronic conditions, the medical implications were very troubling.” [Forbes, 8/20/08; New York Times, Editorial, 9/2/08]

30% Of North Carolina Seniors Who Rely On The Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit Plan Fell Into The Coverage Gap. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 30% of North Carolina seniors who were enrolled in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan reached the coverage gap, also known as the “doughnut hole” in 2007. [Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts, 8/08]

Dole Voted Twice With Bush And Against Extending The Enrollment Deadline For The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.
Elizabeth Dole voted against extending the enrollment period for the Medicare Part D prescription plan twice in the U.S. Senate. [Vote 5, 2/2/06; Vote 342, 11/17/05]

Bush Opposed Extending The Enrollment Deadline; Bush Would Make Seniors “Pay Higher Monthly Premiums Permanently.” The Chicago Tribune reported that extending the enrollment deadline for the Medicare prescription drug benefit is “a step the administration has opposed but critics say is needed to give seniors time to figure out the program's many options. Under current rules, if Medicare recipients do not enroll before mid-May, they will have to pay higher monthly premiums permanently.” [Chicago Tribune, 2/3/06]

Dole Voted For Increased Premiums For Medicare Beneficiaries. In November 2005, Dole voted against an amendment that would have made Medicare beneficiaries harmless from the increase in the 2007 Medicare monthly part B premium that would otherwise occur because of the 2006 increase in payments under the physician fee schedule. [Vote 287, 11/3/05]


Dole Voted Against Re-Importation. In May 2007, Dole voted against allowing the importation of safe, affordable prescription drugs from Canada. The amendment would have allowed the importation of drugs if imported by a registered importer or by an individual for personal use from a registered exporter from Canada, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan, and other countries designated by the HHS Secretary if such importation did not adversely affect public health. Unlike Dole, sixteen Republican senators voted to invoke cloture on the bill. [Vote 150, 5/3/07]

Dole Voted To Make It Harder To Import Prescription Drugs In 2006. In 2006, Dole voted against Senator David Vitter’s proposal to bar U.S. Customs agents from enforcing a Food and Drug Administration ban on importing prescription drugs from Canada. [Vote 191, 7/11/06; New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7/12/06]

Dole Voted Against Allowing Medicare To Negotiate For Lower Drug Prices Four Times.
In the U.S. Senate, Dole has voted against allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices four times since 2005. [Vote 132, 4/18/07; Vote 50, 3/15/06; Vote 302, 11/3/05; Vote 60, 3/17/05]

Dole Voted Against An Amendment To Require Companies to Reveal Drug Risks in Advertisements. In 2003, Dole voted against an amendment to the prescription drug bill that would require drug companies to release advertisements with balanced visual and audio information. The Health and Human Services secretary would be required to speed up the review process of such advertisements. Drug companies violating the advertising rules would be subject to civil penalties. The AP reported that the amendment “would have required pharmaceutical companies to give more details about a drug’s risks in their advertising.” [Vote 248, 6/26/03]


Dole Has Accepted $292,482 From The Pharmaceutical & Health Products Industry.
Since Dole first started running for Senate in 2001, Dole has accepted at least $292,482 from the pharmaceutical and health products industries. [Center for Responsive Politics, 9/30/08]

Dole Is One Of The Pharmaceutical Industries Top 20 Senators. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Dole is ranked twentieth among all U.S. Senators for the amount of money that she has taken from the pharmaceutical industry since she first started running for Senate in 2001. She has accepted $217,197 from the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. [Center for Responsive Politics, 9/30/08]

Dole Is One Of GlaxoSmithKline’s Favorite Members Of Congress. Out of all the current members of Congress, Dole is ranked third in the amount of money that she has accepted from GlaxoSmithKline’s political action committees and employees. She has taken $20,000 from the pharmaceutical company. [Center for Responsive Politics, 8/21/08]

Dole’s Leadership PAC Has Taken $30,000 From The Pharmaceutical Industry. Since 2003, Dole’s leadership PAC has accepted at least $30,000 from PAC’s associated with the pharmaceutical industry. [Center for Responsive Politics, 7/29/08]

Dole Allowed NRSC To Accept $805,362 From Pharmaceutical Industry. As head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2006 election cycle, Dole allowed the NRSC to accept $805,362 from the pharmaceutical industry. [Center for Responsive Politics, 7/28/08]

Dole Took $75,000 in Speaking Fees From Merck. Before running for the Senate, Merck Pharmaceuticals paid Dole a $75,000 speaking fee. [Charlotte Observer, 8/14/02]

---Disclosure: I am Kay Hagan's Online Communications Director---