In Letter To Cantor, Schumer, Menendez Demand Answer To Key Repeal Question

January 24, 2011 3:30 a.m.
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As promised, Senate Democrats aren’t going to take the GOP’s health care repeal push lying down.

In a letter delivered to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Sunday, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) demand an answer to a question now at the center of the Republican party’s top legislative priority: Will repealing the health care law force seniors to reimburse the government for the $250 check they received in 2010 to help them pay for prescription drugs?

“We are particularly concerned that repeal would reverse the course of making prescription drugs more affordable for seniors,” Schumer and Menendez write. “The [repeal] legislation approved by the House could require seniors to repay the government.”One of the major goals of the Affordable Care Act is to close the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap, better known to most as the “donut hole.” The law will fill that hole over a decade, and in 2010, that meant many seniors received a $250 rebate check.

“Richard Foster, the Chief Actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has said that “in theory,” seniors would have to return the checks if repeal becomes law,” the letter reads.

Asked about this at a recent press availability, Cantor claimed it’s not the Republicans’ intention to make seniors pay the money back. But he left open the possibility that they might have to fix that problem down the road.

“If a repeal bill passes and there’s any uncertainty as to whether those checks would have to be recaptured, we can speak to that then,” Cantor said.

Not good enough.

“We have read your comments that any unintended consequences of the House-passed repeal measure would be addressed at a later date,” write Schumer and Menendez. “We find these assurances insufficient. We urge you to commit to undo this problem now, if it is determined that repayment is necessary.”

You can read the entire letter here. On Face the Nation Sunday, Schumer said for the record what I first reported Friday: if Republicans continue to pursue full repeal of the health care law, they’ll have to vote on its popular provisions — including this one.

“If the Republicans offer [a repeal] amendment on the floor, then we will require them to vote on the individual protections in the bill that are very popular and that even some of the new Republican House members have said they support,” he said.

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