Posted on July 02, 1999 at 18:01:36:
Senator Roy Dyson (D-Calvert, St. Mary's) implored Maryland's U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D) and Paul S. Sarbanes (D) to lead the fight in Congress to ensure that the state's rural seniors are protected by HMO medicare benefits that will run out at the turn of the millennium.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield announced July 1 that it would no longer insure seniors in Maryland's 16 rural counties which includes Calvert and St. Mary's after January 1, 2000.
"The only level of government that can help our seniors before the Year 2000 is upon us is the Federal Government," Senator Dyson said. "We need Senators Sarbanes and Mikulski to take a strong leadership role -- as they have promised -- on this position."
Just days before Blue Cross/Blue Shield's announcement to no longer provide Medicare HMO coverage, President Clinton unveiled an ambitious plan to provide seniors with additional Medicare funding that includes coverage for prescription drugs.
Earlier this year, Senator Dyson introduced legislation that would share any additional Medicare HMO coverage among all Maryland counties. He did so after three major insurance companies announced they would no longer cover seniors in rural counties and Blue Cross/Blue Shield said it would cover rural seniors only if they paid an additional $75 that seniors in urban counties didn't have to pay.
Senator Dyson's bill, heard before a committee made up of a strong majority of members who represent urban counties, failed.
Since then, Senator Dyson has waited for action from Washington. The president's announcement this past week came as welcome news.
"President Clinton has paved the way for our seniors to be protected with a solid Medicare plan," Senator Dyson said, adding that Republicans and Democrats should join with the President. "Now is not the time to play politics," the District 29 Senator said. "I do not want to see members from each party pointing fingers and exchanging critiques about each other's plans. It is time for action, not words. Our seniors are very afraid that they will not be covered adequately under Medicare if legislation such as President Clinton's are not voted into law quickly. If this doesn't happen, the very group that helped create an unprecedented budget surplus -- our seniors -- will be in dire, desperate straits. An uneasy group of people who vote in large numbers are waiting impatiently to see who comes to their aid and who does not. This is suddenly a major Election 2000 issue."