Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, November 18, 2005

Money on the Table

by Senator Larry Craig

For senior citizens in Idaho, and all across the nation, November 15, 2005, was a very important day. That was the first day seniors could enroll for prescription drug coverage under the new Medicare law Congress approved in 2003. Private companies will offer Medicare prescription drug coverage starting January 1, 2006. Now, senior citizens who use Medicare have access to a big helping hand when it comes to affording prescription drugs.

First, it’s important to note that the new prescription drug benefit is a voluntary program. Nobody will be forced to join. If you are happy with your Medicare coverage, you do not have to change a thing.

For those who choose to join, the typical person with Medicare and no drug coverage could see total drug costs drop by about 50 percent. That means real savings for many, as prescription drugs play an increasingly important role in health care.

However, I understand that many are confused by the new prescription drug benefit. Several different plans are available, and coverage differs depending on the individual. I’ve had to keep on my toes to understand it myself, but it is possible. That being said, I hope seniors will not be discouraged by the law’s complexity, because help is available.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are working with officials and agencies at the state and local levels to ensure that there is a host of people to help seniors understand the benefit and make wise choices. CMS offers tips that will help seniors choose the prescription drug plan that best suits them.

If you are considering a prescription drug plan under Medicare, there are some things you can do to help make your choices clearer:

  • Gather information about your current coverage for health care and prescription drugs. Make sure you know what coverage you have now.
  • Gather information about the drugs you use, including their names and dosages. Think about other things that matter to you about coverage, like whether you want more protection if your drug needs change, or whether you want coverage that has a lower premium. This will help you compare plans later.
  • Contact one of the six Area Agencies on Aging. To find the area agency closest to you, visit www.idahoaging.com, or call toll-free 1-877-471-2777.
  • Contact the Idaho Department of Commerce’s Senior Health Insurance Benefit Advisors (SHIBA) at 1-800-247-4422.
Both SHIBA and the Area Agencies on Aging have dedicated staff who are trained to help seniors evaluate their needs and choose a prescription drug plan that best fits them.

If you are a senior citizen with Medicare, I encourage you to give one of these agencies a call. As the former chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, I am well aware of the increasing role prescription drugs play in our seniors’ lives. I am also aware of the steadily increasing costs of prescription drugs, and the ever-growing chunk it takes out of seniors’ wallets.

The good news is that help is here. If you are eligible, take advantage of Medicare’s new prescription drug coverage. Don’t leave money on the table.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

FEDS HELP COUNTIES WITH ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION COSTS

Craig praises program that reimburses counties for incarceration costs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Justice announced today the approval of funds to help reimburse local law enforcement with the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens. Sixteen Idaho counties and the Idaho Department of Corrections received funds through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

Idaho Senator Larry Craig praised the announcement, “Illegal immigration costs society at all levels. However, local taxpayers should not bear the cost of incarcerating them when it is a failure of policy at the federal level. This program is just one way the federal government can ease the burden. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to do what I can to see this program is adequately funded.”

Administered through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the program was one of a handful of Justice programs to receive an increase during the Fiscal Year 2006 budget cycle – from $305 million to $405 million. The Senate approved the bill today, sending it to the President for his signature.

In related news, in a November 10, 2005 letter Craig joined 33 of his Senate colleagues urging the President to continue funding in his 2007 budget for the border security initiatives that were added in Fiscal Year 2006. The personnel and program increases referenced include: an additional 2,000 border patrol agents; an expansion of the detention and removal program; modernization of the Customs and Border Protection air and marine fleets; additional immigration judges; and additional Assistant United States Attorneys to prosecute human smugglers. Earlier this year, Craig and West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd joined forces to secure the increases in an effort to stem illegal immigration and human smuggling.

Craig emphasized, “While border security is important, we will not get a handle on illegal immigration until we reform our guest worker programs and improve the economy world-wide. People come here because of the opportunities America offers. I am proud of that and thank God we live in a country that people risk their lives to enter rather than a country that people risk their lives to leave.”

SAFE ACT CO-SPONSORS SAY PATRIOT ACT CONFERENCE REPORT UNACCEPTABLE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Craig, Durbin, Feingold, Sununu, Salazar, and Murkowski issued the following statement in regards to the PATRIOT Act Conference Report:

"As the original cosponsors of the SAFE Act, we are deeply concerned about the draft Patriot Act reauthorization conference report made available to us early this afternoon. The Senate version of the bill, passed by unanimous consent in July, was itself a compromise that resulted from intense negotiations by Senators from all sides of the partisan and ideological divides. Unfortunately, the conference committee draft retreats significantly from the bipartisan consensus we reached in the Senate. It simply does not accomplish what we and many of our colleagues in the Senate believe is necessary – a reauthorization bill that continues to provide law enforcement with the tools to investigate possible terrorist activity while making reasonable changes to the original law to protect innocent people from unnecessary and intrusive government surveillance.

"To support this bill, we need to see significant movement back toward the Senate position in the following areas: (1) Section 215 (library and other sensitive business records); (2) Section 505 (National Security Letters); (3) sunset provisions; and (4) Section 213 (sneak and peek). We will communicate with the conferees this afternoon and provide specific suggestions to improve the bill in these four important areas.

"For the past several years, our bipartisan coalition has been working together to highlight and fix the civil liberties problems posed by the Patriot Act. We introduced the SAFE Act to address those problems, while still maintaining important law enforcement powers needed to combat terrorism. We have worked too long and too hard to allow this conference report to eliminate the modest protections for civil liberties that were agreed to unanimously in the Senate.

"The conference report, in its current form, is unacceptable. There is still time for the conference committee to step back and agree to the Senate’s bipartisan approach. If the conference committee doesn’t do that, we will fight to stop this bill from becoming law."