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Meeks decries ‘huge gap’ in House prescription bill

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U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) told a group of southeast Queens civic leaders Saturday that he opposed two congressional bills aimed at lowering prescription drug costs, calling the legislation flawed.

Meeks tackled the health care debate, discussed the war in Iraq and touched on other local issues at his breakfast meeting with about 50 community leaders at Thomasina Catering Hall in Cambria Heights.

“It’s the hot issue right now,” Meeks said of the health care debate. “We promised the American people an affordable drug plan.”

At the end of June, both the House and the Senate passed plans to expand Medicare to include benefits for prescription drug coverage.

Differences in the versions of the legislation must be worked out if the plan is to become law. The Senate bill provides more assistance than the House version.

While Democrats have called for more prescription drug coverage, they have criticized the House bill, backed almost entirely by Republicans, saying it does not go far enough.

Meeks voiced that criticism Saturday as part of the “National Democratic Prescription Drug Town Hall.”

“The struggle is to find a Medicare prescription drug plan that everyone can benefit from,” Meeks said.

The House bill has a “huge gap” in the people it covers, Meeks said.

Those who spend between $2,000 and $4,900 on medication annually are not covered under the plan, Meeks said. Those who spend more or less than that range would be covered, he said.

Meeks also pledged to stand against a Re-importation Bill, House legislation that has yet to be voted on. The bill would allow American wholesalers to import drugs from Canada, where medication is cheaper.

Meeks said he opposed the bill because it would allow potentially unsafe drugs to enter the country.

“They could be coming from any place in the world,” he said.

Turning to the state of American forces in Iraq, Meeks said he voted against allowing President George W. Bush to send troops to Iraq but supported the troops once they were sent abroad.

“There was never any plan in my estimation,” Meeks said. “The plan was about shock and awe. There was no exit strategy.”

Bruce Jefferson, a southeast Queens civic leader with a nephew serving in Iraq, told the congressman he was concerned about how long the troops would have to stay.

“(My nephew’s) been promised that he should have been recycled back, and now there is no time limit on that,” Jefferson said.

Meeks, who has a number of constituents serving in the armed forces, said he wanted to see other countries become more involved in the rebuilding of Iraq to allow American soldiers to start returning home.

“In the military, you are trained to kill, not to keep the peace,” he said. “They are doing a job now that they are not trained to do.”

Many in the audience, however, brought up local issues.

Several people reminded Meeks that airplane noise near Kennedy Airport continued to bother residents.

Meeks said he had written to the Federal Aviation Administration asking the agency to push the use of technologies that create quieter airplanes.

One woman told Meeks that the increase in homeless shelters and group homes was hurting the area.

“It looks like they are focusing it all in southeast Queens,” she said.

Meeks wholeheartedly agreed, saying the Department of Housing and Urban Development was launching an investigation into such facilities in his district.

“We’ve had enough in our community with homeless shelters,” Meeks said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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