SPENCER MICHELS: With major advances in pharmaceuticals over the last decade, seniors rely far more today on prescription drugs than they did when Medicare was established in 1965. That and the high cost of those medicines have propelled the issue into the presidential race. Campaigning in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Governor Bush announced today that his new plan to cover prescription drugs for Medicare recipients would help seniors more quickly than Vice President Gore's proposal.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: We'll modernize Medicare, but we will not wait to help seniors afford prescription drugs. We'll give them direct aid now by expanding and funding state assistance programs. Every senior with an income of less than $11,300-- $15,200 for a couple-- will have the entire cost of their prescription drugs covered. For seniors with incomes less than $14,600, or $19,700 per couple, there will be a partial subsidy.
SPENCER MICHELS: Under the Bush plan, the government would not offer a drug benefit automatically as part of Medicare, but all Medicare beneficiaries would be given a subsidy to purchase drug coverage from a private health plan. Every senior above the poverty level would get 25% of the cost of their insurance premiums. Expenses more than $6,000 a year would be covered for all seniors. Bush said the program would cost $158 billion over ten years. $48 billion would be spent to cover low- and moderate-income seniors immediately. Bush said the Clinton-Gore administration had squandered opportunities to provide seniors with drug coverage.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: This is a patient country, but our patience is wearing thin. This is not a time for third chances. It's a time for new beginnings and new leadership. (Applause)
SPENCER MICHELS: Medicare currently does not provide any drug coverage outside the hospital, but national spending on pharmaceuticals is expected to soar from $112 billion this year to $243 billion in just eight years.* Currently about two thirds of Medicare beneficiaries have some sort of drug coverage through private or employee plans, but the 12 million without must pay for their own medications. Studies show that seniors who are not covered purchase 11 fewer medications over a year than those with insurance.*
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Thank you.
SPENCER MICHELS: At a Columbus, Ohio, campaign stop, Gore today said his plan would cover all seniors, and he blasted the Bush drug plan.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: There are really three problems with it. Number one, it leaves millions of seniors without any prescription drug coverage-middle class seniors. Nearly half of all of those who don't have coverage today would not get coverage under the plan that he is announcing today. The second problem is it would still force seniors into HMO's and managed health plans even if they don't want to go into them. As we've seen, there are a lot of problems with the way some of the HMO's have been treating all Americans. And number three, the biggest problem is there is no money to pay for it if you give away all of the surplus in the form of a giant tax cut to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class in a way that stops our prosperity and progress.
SPENCER MICHELS: Gore's own plan calls for spending more than Bush, about $253 billion over ten years. Seniors would pay monthly premiums starting at $25; the government would then cover half the cost of drugs up to a maximum of $1,000. Like Bush's plan, the government would pay the premiums for low-income seniors.
*Source: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation