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Democrats tout prescription plan for seniors

Democrats tout prescription plan for seniors

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For the second time this month, Democrats used their Saturday radio address to tout their plans to provide prescription drug coverage to seniors through Medicare.

They also criticized President Bush's competing plan as inadequate to ensure that older Americans get the drugs they need.

"We want to tell America's seniors who have been waiting in line for a long time that finally -- finally -- they have reached the front of the line. We are about to take action on prescription drugs," said Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who delivered the address jointly with Sen. Bob Graham of Florida.

"Our plan ends the tough choices. It is the only plan out there that offers affordable coverage to all seniors beginning with the very first prescription filled," Miller said.

Medicare, which provides health care coverage for Americans 65 and older, does not currently provide a prescription drug benefit. But many Medicare+Choice plans, available to Medicare recipients through private insurance companies, do cover drugs.

Bush and House Republicans have 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.

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Graham said the GOP plan "would rely on gimmicks and gotchas, experimenting with an untried, untested delivery system run by private insurance companies that will make the decisions."

"America's seniors shouldn't be guinea pigs," he said.

Graham and Miller touted the Democratic plan as much simpler -- a $25 monthly premium with a copayment of $10 for each generic drug or $40 for medically necessary brand-name drugs.

For 12 million seniors who earn less than $11,900 a year, there would be no premium or copayment.

Miller also said that under the Democratic plan, seniors would have an out-of-pocket maximum of $4,000 per year. He said that under the GOP plan, there would be no drug coverage at all from the time drug expenses reach $2,000 until they reach $5,600.

"Talk about a gap -- that's the Grand Canyon," he said. "And the ones it will hurt the most are the ones who can afford it the least -- low-income seniors."




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