The U.S. Senate has approved the Medicare bill aimed at providing senior citizens with affordable prescription drug benefits. The legislation has been endorsed by a number of advocates for senior citizens, including the American Association of Retired Persons. It will boost payments to hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers to help ensure senior citizens have access to affordable treatment. Senior citizens wishing to opt out of an HMO will maintain the right to do so. Senator Christopher Bond praises the bill, calling it a victory for senior citizens. He adds it will protect Medicare for future generations. Senator Jim Talent calls this the most important Medicare bill in a generation. He says it meets the conditions he believes are important for a prescription drug benefit. 40-Million Americans, including 867,000 Missourians, stand to benefit from the Medicare bill. The benefit is set to kick in in 2006, and comes with a price tag of $394-Billion over ten years. Senior citizens would be eligible for coverage by paying approximately $35 dollars a month, which would entitle them to receive at least 50 percent off their prescription drug costs. About 270,000 low income Missourians would qualify for even greater coverage. The bill now goes to President Bush for his signature.