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New Drug Discount Cards Available Beginning Today

Aired June 1, 2004 - 10:37   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Here some are stories across America now. Teaching your children how to dial 911 can be a real lifesaver, as one mother in Salem, Oregon found out. Three-year-old Brianna Grimes (ph) knew exactly to do when her mother, Christine (ph), passed out from the 104-degree heat. Brianna dialed 911. The dispatcher actually thought Brianna was older since she was so well-spoken, and she stayed on the line until help arrived. Listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 911 -- what's your emergency?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does her heart hurt?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy, does your heart hurt? Momma, does your heart hurt? Momma?


COSTELLO: Mamma is okay. Brianna got an award from the fire department. In fact, mom has already got it all framed and up on the wall. Good for her.

Scrambled eggs to go in Bellaire, Texas. An 18-wheeler spilled its load of 30,000 pounds of eggs off an overpass. Take a look at that mess. The egg cases crushed the cab of a truck underneath, but nobody was hurt inside the cab of the truck. Environmental workers cleaned up the mess, and even brought their supervisor some breakfast. Scrambled eggs, of course.

Meet Patrick the gorilla. Dallas zookeepers are letting him watch TV while he stays indoors. Patrick's favorite show is CNN LIVE TODAY. He's a big fan of Daryn Kagan's. In fact, he's really actually angry that I'm filling in for her today. We kind of fooled around with the video there to make Daryn happy, because I'm sure she's watching. Zookeeper keep hold of the remote, and Patrick really likes cartoons instead of CNN LIVE TODAY.


COSTELLO: Forty-one million elderly Americans are waking up with a new choice today. They can get one of the new prescription drug discount cards offered through Medicare. But as Louise Schiavone reports, that choice comes with a lot of confusion.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNNfn CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Medicare prescription drug discount charge is the opening act for the largest entitlement expansion in U.S. history. The program in a 19-month bridge to the 2006 full implementation of the Bush administrations' Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act.

Costing different amounts to different income groups and not available at all if a senior doesn't sign up, confusion abounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've heard rumors that the new law is not good for seniors and I haven't had chance to go over that yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do know there are a lot of companies that are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and it's very difficult to decide on which card is the best to use.

SCHIAVONE: At least 70 companies approved to market the discount cards. The cost is $30 per card and could reduce the prices of certain drugs from certain pharmacies by 10 to 25 percent.

Critics say that with rising drug prices, the discount card doesn't so much reduce prices as it keeps them constant.

JOHN ROTHER, POLICY DIR., AARP: Really what they're going to be doing even with the discount is paying the same prices they would of paid without a discount about three years ago. So while the drug card is helpful today, we've got a fundamental problem in the cost of medications.

SCHIAVONE: The biggest winners are low-income seniors. They are eligible for a free card and a $600 credit for their prescriptions. Roughly 7 million people fall into this category.

One of the most worrisome aspects of the new program is the potential for fraud.

SHARLEA LEATHERWOOD, PRES., NATL. COMMUNITY PHARMACISTS ASSOC.: There's been a lot of scams so far where even individuals have gone door-to-door telling seniors that they're selling a Medicare card to them and getting an enrollment fee from them.

SCHIAVONE: A legitimate card will have a Medicare approved seal.

The Bush administration argues that with the card's brand name drug could be reduced by up to 18 percent. But critics fear the $530 billion behemoth carries no mechanism to constrain runaway drug prices which, after all, have been Medicare expansion's reason for being.

Louise Schiavone for CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: Losing almost 200 pounds and finding something extraordinary. One woman's journey to pass for thin straight ahead.


COSTELLO: Lots of people have successfully lost weight. Sometimes lots of weight. Usually their stories focus on how they did it. What's often not addressed is the profound emotional change that can go along with dramatic weight loss.

"Passing For Thin" tell of that internal journey of discovering one's identity after a lifetime of obesity. It's Frances Kuffel's true story of losing nearly 200 pounds and finding herself. Welcome.


COSTELLO: Can we show the before and after pictures, first?

KUFFEL: Absolutely.

COSTELLO: Pretty darned amazing. Congratulations for losing all of that weight.

KUFFEL: Thank you.

COSTELLO: So do you want me to get into it at all about how you did it or is that not the most important part of your story?

KUFFEL: Well it isn't the most important part of the story because doing it is anybody can do it. It's just move more, eat less. It's what you find out afterwards that there isn't a parade.

COSTELLO: The title of your book is telling. "Passing For Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding Myself." Explain.

KUFFEL: Well, I never quite feel like I'm genuinely normal. If before there was a thin person trying to get out of a fat body, now there is a fat person trying to get out of a thin body -- or a normal body.

COSTELLO: Is it really that different being thin versus being overweight?

KUFFEL: Oh, yes. Yes.


KUFFEL: Because I'm part of humanity in a way that I never was when I was very overweight. I was -- there was no place where I literally fit. And now there are things that, of course, I'm very grateful for it because I understand what is the difference.

But someone looking at me wouldn't know that when I sat down in a subway seat for two today with someone else there how extraordinary that was. And that I didn't have to stand up the entire trip.

COSTELLO: But those should be good feelings.

KUFFEL: Oh, they are good feelings. They are. And most of it is good feelings. But a lot of it is a sense of doing things for the first time and not understanding things. A lot of translation.

COSTELLO: You said you're on the planet of the thin where you don't know the rules. How do the rules differ between an overweight person and a thin person?

KUFFEL: Well, a thin person has permission to do and be and feel so many more things.

COSTELLO: Such as?

KUFFEL: Well, you're not always having to overact because of your weight. I don't have to come on like a ton of bricks in order to get you past what I look like.

And I have permission to be angry about things. If a man has treated me badly or a boss has treated me badly, I can't retreat into, well, I deserve that, I'm fat.

I have to have other reasons that it happened. And sometimes it's their stuff. And figuring all that out for the first time has been extremely difficult.

COSTELLO: So how do you do it?

KUFFEL: Therapy, writing it down, thinking about it a lot, talking to everybody I can find who has ever been through these situations. Just every -- absolutely every avenue I can find for figuring this stuff out.

COSTELLO: Well, I'm interested in this question and I came up with it. I don't know if it will make any sense at all. But were there qualities that you liked in yourself before you became thin that you've lost now that you're thin?

KUFFEL: No, I don't think so. There were things I liked about myself when I was fat that I've kept. I'm still very funny and reasonably smart.

There were ways of living that I miss. I miss the food. And I miss being shut down on the food when life is hard. Sometimes I miss the isolation that it's scary out here, where I'm walking around in the world and doing more things and being more visible and people are really judging me on things besides my weight.

They may judge me because they don't like me. And the weight has nothing to do with it. So I miss those things.

COSTELLO: Interesting. So, finally, what do you want readers to carry away from your book?

KUFFEL: Well, two things, I think. The first is that if I can do it, anyone can do it. And the second thing would be be careful what you ask for, you might get it!

COSTELLO: Well, we congratulate you and what a fascinating book. Francis Kuffel. "Passing For Thin" is the book. Thank you very much for joining us.

KUFFEL: Thank you.

COSTELLO: From the entertainment world a baby or two may be in the near future for Oscar winner Julia Roberts. The spokeswoman for the 36-year-old actress tells "People" magazine that Roberts is pregnant with twins. She married to cinematographer Daniel Moder.

You're fired -- again. Kwame Jackson was supposed to be a judge for the Miss Universe Pageant but he was disqualified on Monday for waving at beauty queens he bumped into their hotel lobby. Kwame said he didn't realize he wasn't supposed to do that.

And who is the most beautiful woman of all time? A new poll claims it's film icon Audrey Hepburn. The water company Evian asked the beauty experts and they came up with the rest of the top five. All actresses past and present. Live Tyler, Cate Blanchet, Angelina Jolie and the late Grace Kelly.

From Hollywood beauties to green ogres, you can keep and eye on entertainment 24/7 by pointing you Internet browser to

Back in a moment to talk hurricanes and your forecast.




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