Congressman Faleomavaega announced that on December 8, 2003 President Bush signed into law the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (H.R. 1) which the House passed on November 22, 2003. In general, this legislation creates a voluntary prescription drug benefit program for seniors and addresses the needs of the territories in two distinct ways.
“First, H.R. 1 requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a program to endorse prescription drug card programs,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Eligible individuals would receive access to prescription drug discounts through card sponsors. This program will also provide transitional assistance for low-income individuals.”
“In the case of the territories, $35 million dollars has been allocated to provide transitional assistance for covered discount drugs to eligible persons. Eligible persons are those entitled to benefits under Part A or enrolled in Part B whose incomes fall below 135% of the poverty line. The conference agreement also provides that the amount available for each territory would be determined using the ratio of the total number of Medicare residents in all the territories.”
“H.R. 1 also makes amendments to Medicaid for individuals who are dual eligibles (eligible for Medicare and full Medicaid benefits),” the Congressman explained. “H.R. 1 provides for the federal phase-in of the costs of premiums and cost-sharing subsidies for dual eligibles. While residents of the territories are not eligible for regular low-income subsidies, the territories may apply for additional Medicaid funds.”
“In brief, H.R. 1 provides that $28.125 million would be available beginning in the last 3 quarters of 2006, $37.5 million in 2007 and increasing in subsequent years. To obtain these funds, territories would have to provide assurances that additional funds would be used to cover drugs and administrative costs.”
“The amount of money that American Samoa and other territories will receive will be determined solely by the number of eligible individuals residing in the territory. Further clarification and application procedures should be forthcoming and I will provide additional information regarding the recent changes to Medicare as it is made available to me,” the Congressman concluded.