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Sen. Jean Carnahan hears elderly urge that Medicare cover prescription drugs.

August 27, 2001
By: Anna Nichols
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan's Monday hearings on prescription drug costs for the elderly got less than an enthusiastic response from Missouri Republicans.

"We have to trust Mrs. Carnahan's motives, that this is something that is important to her. Hopefully her actions will back that up." said Scott Baker, communications director for the Missouri Republican Party.

Baker said the Republican Party hopes this is a good sign for meaningful reform and not a political move.

But Republicans, who were available Monday, avoided any direct criticism of the junior Senator.

President Pro Tem of the Missouri Senate, Peter Kinder, would not comment on Sen. Carnahan's visit, but he commented on Missouri's efforts to reform rising drug costs.

"We are working hard to try to get a bill that can pass both houses next month and be put on the governor's desk for a signature," Kinder said.

Sen. Carnahan is a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Affected senior citizens, advocates, and physicians testified in the hearing.

Coping with high prescription drug costs on a fixed income was a major theme of the hearing. Several of the panelists told of their own difficulties in balancing their health care costs in a tight budget.

"No one should have to choose between food to eat and the medicine they need," panelist L.C. Lakes said. Lakes is a retired welder from St. Louis who feels the financial pinch of drug prices.

Carnahan said the message of the hearing was clear.

"We need a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, and we need it now," she said.