Pres. Bush Pledges Medicare Overhaul

Bush’s plan, introduced at a Rose Garden ceremony this morning, would allow Medicare recipients to carry a pharmacy discount card for $1-2 a month.

Bush’s proposal would rely on private companies that manage pharmacy benefits to negotiate the discounted prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers and drug stores.

“The new drug discount plan combines the purchasing clout of millions of seniors to negotiate lower prices than under the current system,” Bush told the elderly crowd.

According to White House estimates, the card could save Medicare recipients about 25 percent in medicine purchases, or up to 50 percent for mail-order drugs. About 15 million of Medcare’s 40 million recipients currently have no prescription drug coverage.

The administration said use of the card could be adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services by January without congressional approval.

Improving a 36-year-old system

In his speech, Bush also laid out a wish list for overhauling Medicare, including providing more attention to preventive care and serious illnesses.

The federal program, which provides health insurance for 40 million elderly and disabled Americans, was one of the hottest campaign issues of 2000.

President Bush had presented a prescription drug coverage plan to Congress in January that would have given states money to help low-income seniors buy prescriptions. The plan, called “Immediate Helping Hand,” never got enough support to be implemented.

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