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U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman has not yet succeeded in her goal of forcing Medicare to include prescription drug coverage as part of its benefit package. But she did have some success last week on a related front.

Thurman, D-Dunnellon, announced that the House of Representatives passed a measure that, if signed into law, would extend prescription coverage to all military retirees who otherwise lose coverage once they turn 65 and enroll in Medicare.

Without this law, Thurman said in prepared remarks, "Many military retirees will continue to effectively lose their prescription drug coverage at age 65 because they must rely on Medicare.

"We have an obligation to truly thank these men and women who served our country by providing quality health care that's effective, accessible and affordable, and that includes prescription drug coverage," Thurman said.

As it stands, a relatively small number of Medicare-eligible military retirees participate in the Department of Defense mail-order prescription drug benefit program. Other retirees must drive to a military base to fill prescriptions or pay full price at a non-military pharmacy because Medicare does not provide coverage.

Thurman said her bill would allow 800,000 more retirees to participate in the mail-order program.

News and notes

POLITICS, POLITICS: Leslie Scales, the Marion County woman running for a state Senate seat in the district that includes east Citrus, has promised to make health care one of the top issues in her campaign. Scales, a Democrat, will show she is serious about the pledge Monday, during one of her first formal campaign stops in Citrus County.

Scales is scheduled to visit the Avante at Inverness nursing home at 10:15 a.m. to discuss policy, and then stop at Citrus Memorial Hospital to talk with officials about health insurance and other matters.

_ Jim Ross may be reached at 860-7302 or by e-mail at