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Democrats push for Medicare drug coverage

Democrats push for Medicare drug coverage

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's proposal for providing prescription drug coverage to Medicare recipients doesn't go far enough to ensure that seniors will get the drugs they need to keep them alive, said Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury Saturday in the Democratic radio address.

"Seniors account for 13 percent of the population but pay 42 cents of every dollar spent on prescription drugs. Under these circumstances, there is simply no excuse for the lack of a Medicare prescription drug benefit," Bradbury said.

"Medicare is a solemn contract, a promise made to Americans that their country will not abandon them in their golden years."

Bradbury is a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Oregon now held by Gordon Smith, a Republican. The issue of extending drug coverage to Medicare recipients is expected to be a major issue in the fall campaign.

Bradbury recounted a trip he took Thursday to British Columbia with a group of seniors, who were able to get prescriptions in Canada for a fraction of the cost of what they pay in the United States.

"It's shameful that American retirees have to go to these lengths to find a reasonable price for medications that keep them alive," he said.

Medicare, which covers Americans 65 and older, does not currently provide a prescription drug benefit. However, many Medicare+Choice plans -- available to Medicare recipients through private insurance companies -- do cover drugs.

Bush has proposed using Medicare+Choice plans as a vehicle to provide drug coverage to seniors by increasing reimbursements and providing financial incentives to encourage more insurers to offer them.

But Bradbury said that 94 percent of seniors still would not have drug coverage under Bush's plan, while a Democratic plan would provide the benefit to all seniors. He said Republicans "have either failed to recognize the problem or chosen to ignore it because of the political debt they owe to the large pharmaceutical companies."

"Democrats are fighting for a comprehensive, affordable Medicare prescription drug benefit, which combines the purchasing power of 38 million beneficiaries," he said.

"Republicans, meanwhile, propose a market-based solution that depends on the good will of private insurance companies -- the same insurance companies who are already offering outrageously expensive plans that fail to cover many basic medications."




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