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Murray pushes her idea for drug benefit

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) voted against a bill that provided prescription drugs to senior citizens. And she is crisscrossing the state to explain why.

“This bill did not fulfill its promise,” she said. “It is very complex and does not provide what you would expect from a prescription drug program.”

Murray visited Givens Center in Port Orchard on Friday afternoon, addressing about 25 senior citizens, onlookers and Kitsap County staff members. North Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen and Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel also attended.

President George W. Bush signed the Medicare Reform Act into law last December, but it does not take effect until 2006. Members of Murray’s party who supported the bill included Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD).

Murray’s purpose is to educate seniors how they can live with the bill, but also she also hopes to spur them to action to eliminate what she perceives as the bill’s more onerous aspects.

“You need to start lobbying,” Murray said. “These people are only going to listen to you when their phone starts ringing off the hook with hundreds of calls per day from angry senior citizens. If you want to change this, you need to get angry.”

Among Murray’s objections: she maintains many seniors will lose their retirement health benefits, pay more for drugs and pay more for Medicare.

Rural residents, she says, will pay more for less coverage, and seniors with chronic diseases can lose access to needed drugs.

The bill’s biggest failing, according to Murray, is how lower and upper income seniors receive coverage while those in the middle do not — even though they are required to pay premiums and drug costs.

The meeting was also addressed by Paul Urlie, director of aging and long-term care, who offered his agency’s help in interpreting the law.

“It’s very confusing,” he said. “It was assumed that when a law was passed that seniors would get benefits and medication, but this is not the case.”

Urlie said the seniors were not the only ones who had trouble understanding the law, that it took extra effort for his staff to interpret and explain its subtleties.

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