Bush Unveils $158 Billion Drug Plan
Tuesday, September 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) â€” George W. Bush is promoting a new $158 billion plan to provide seniors with prescription drug and other improved benefits, tackling an issue of critical importance for millions of elderly Americans.
Bush's proposal would strengthen Medicare, help seniors pay for all or part of Medicare premiums and subsidize prescription drug costs, with low-income seniors receiving special help, according to a fact sheet from Bush's campaign.
``Medicare is an enduring commitment of our country, but it must be modernized for our times,'' Bush said in prepared remarks. ``We will work to modernize Medicare. But we will not wait to help seniors without prescription drugs.''
Bush's plan will sharpen the debate over health care between the GOP presidential nominee and Vice President Al Gore, who has proposed spending an estimated $253 billion over 10 years to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, the federal health program for elderly and disabled Americans.
``It is a plan of, by and for the big drug companies. The Bush plan leaves millions of seniors without any coverage,'' said Ron Klain, a senior Gore adviser. He said because Bush wants to devote so much money to tax cuts, he ``cannot even pay for this inadequate plan.''
As Bush was promoting his plan, the Democratic National Committee unveiled a new TV ad to run this week in nine key states, criticizing Bush's health care record. The ad focuses on another program â€” Medicaid â€” and accuses the Texas governor of failing to extend the state-federal health insurance program to enough of his state's poor children. The Bush campaign called the ad a distortion.
In the Medicare program for the elderly, about 25 million people have prescription drug coverage of some sort; 12 million people on Medicare have none.
Bush is proposing to spend $110 billion over 10 years to ``modernize'' Medicare and give $48 billion to states over the next four years to help seniors pay for drugs in the short term.
The ``Immediate Helping Plan'' money for states would start to flow as soon as 2001 if Bush were elected. It would cover all costs of prescription drugs for seniors earning up to $11,200 (135 percent of the poverty level), and a part of the cost for seniors earning more.
The longer-range $110 billion plan would:
â€” Guarantee that every senior shall remain entitled to current Medicare benefits.
â€” Give Medicare recipients a choice of modern health plans, including coverage for prescription drugs.
â€” Cover the full cost of Medicare premiums for seniors with incomes at or below 135 percent of poverty, and subsidize the cost of prescription drug coverage for seniors with incomes between 135 percent and 175 percent of poverty.
â€” Cover catastrophic Medicare costs in excess of $6,000 annually for all seniors.
â€” Pay 25 percent of premium costs for prescription drug coverage for all seniors above 175 percent of poverty.
It was not clear whether the government subsidies would go to seniors who choose to purchase drug coverage from private insurance companies.
The Gore campaign maintains that Bush's proposed tax cuts would leave no money in the budget for drug aid.
``Where's he going to get the money?'' asked Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Gore's running mate, who was campaigning in Illinois Monday.
The Bush campaign has characterized Gore's plan as an expensive big government program. ``Our vision isn't going to be their vision, which is that the federal government makes every decision.''