Clinton pitches prescription coverage for Medicare
July 22, 1999
Web posted at: 5:18 p.m. EDT (2118 GMT)
LANSING, Michigan (AllPolitics, July 22) -- Hoping to build support for his Medicare overhaul proposal, President Bill Clinton touted Thursday a new study showing that 75 percent of elderly Americans lack private-sector coverage for prescription drugs.
"It means we need coverage that is simple, voluntary, available to all and completely dependable," he said at a community forum on Medicare in Lansing, Michigan.
The administration is seeking to refute Republican complaints that Clinton's plan for universal Medicare coverage for prescription drugs is too generous.
Clinton's plan carried an 10-year $118 billion price tag and would also cost participants $24 a month.
GOP critics argue that about two-thirds of senior citizens have some drug coverage through corporate retirement packages, privately purchased insurance or HMOs.
Clinton called that statistic "misleading" and "only accurate by a stretch."
The president argued that the new study shows the cost of such supplemental coverage is preventing many individuals and corporate retirement programs from obtaining the additional prescription coverage.
Concluding that the only adequate and affordable coverage belongs to the 25 percent of senior citizens who are covered by corporate retirement benefits, the study warned the number of companies offering such benefits fell from 40 percent to 30 percent between 1994 and 1998.
The study, based on surveys conducted by Medicare, also shows one-third of the Medicare beneficiaries going without drug coverage are middle class and of those who do have coverage, 17 percent get it through government programs.
"It means that the vast majority of our seniors either have no drug coverage at all or coverage that is unstable, unaffordable and rapidly disappearing," Clinton said. "Clearly America needs a prescription-drug plan that is simple, universal and voluntary ... Anyone who says we don't, I believe, is out of date and out of touch."
In addition to the new benefits, Clinton has proposed using $794 billion of the projected federal budget surpluses over the next 15 years to "save and modernize" the system against the onslaught of the aging Baby Boom generation.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deal with this," Clinton said of the projected surpluses. "No serious expert on Medicare believes we can stabilize Medicare without an infusion of new revenues."
The president also argued that a GOP move to use the projected surpluses to fund a tax cut is a mistake, saying that while it might be politically difficult to vote against the tax cut is the right thing to do.
"I trust the American people support those people in public life who think about the long run, who tell them the truth," said Clinton, promising to veto the current bill under consideration in the House. (full story)