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Bush pushes drug card for seniors

Bush pushes drug card for seniors

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Saturday called for improvements in Medicare, including a Medicare-endorsed drug card.

Bush devoted his weekly Saturday radio address to discussing Medicare, which he calls "costly for seniors and too often does not provide the choices our seniors need and our seniors want."

"Seniors should have affordable coverage choices that meet their needs. But Medicare does not do that. Many seniors need prescription drug coverage. Medicare does not provide it. And because Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, seniors often pay the highest prices for drugs out of their own pockets, forcing too many of our seniors to choose between paying for pills or paying their bills."

The president said he is "working for a Medicare-endorsed drug card that will allow seniors to get lower prices" from drug manufacturers "right away."

Bush said Medicare must provide every senior "affordable, up-to-date health insurance options. Right now, more than 5 million Medicare members have access to valuable, modern health insurance benefits and drug coverage in Medicare plus Choice plans."

Many of the treatments and programs, Bush said, "are only available through Medicare's private plans."

"Unfortunately, millions of Medicare members do not have the option to choose these benefits. The federal government has long provided reliable coverage choices to all its employees. But current law prevents private health plans from giving Medicare enrollees the same choices.

"As a result, over 100 private plans have left Medicare, and millions of seniors have lost the valuable additional benefits that private plans provide."

Senate Democrats and House Republicans have unveiled competing, election-year proposals to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare.

Both parties are divided over the scope and size of proposed benefits, including how much the government should pay and how much of the reduced drug cost seniors should shoulder.

On May 1, two Senate Democrats -- Bob Graham of Florida and Zell Miller of Georgia -- offered a plan to add prescription-drug coverage to Medicare that would cost up to $425 billion over 10 years. Backers of a GOP proposal said their plan is designed to cost less than $350 billion over 10 years.




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