CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
President Bush Urges Congress to Pass Medicare Bill
Aired June 28, 2003 - 10:53 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning. This week, the United States Congress passed a historic legislation to strengthen and modernize Medicare. Under the House and Senate bills Americans seniors would for the first time in Medicare's 38-year history receive prescription drug coverage.
We're taking action because Medicare has not kept up with the advances of modern medicine. The program was designed in the 1960s, a time when hospital stays were common, and drug therapies were rare. Now, drugs and other treatments can reduce hospital stays while dramatically improving the quality of care. Because Medicare doesn't provide coverage to pay for the drugs, many seniors have to pay for prescriptions out of pocket. Which often forces them to make the difficult choice of paying for medicine or meeting other expansions.
In January, I submitted to Congress a framework for Medicare reform. That insisted on giving seniors access to prescription drug coverage. And offering more choices under Medicare. The centerpiece of this approach is choice. Seniors should be able to choose the health care plans that suit their needs. When healthcare plans compete for their business, seniors will have better, more affordable option for their health coverage. Members of Congress and other Federal employees already have the ability to choose among healthcare plans. If choice is good enough for lawmakers, it is good enough for America's seniors.
I'm pleased to see Congress has accepted the principle of choice for seniors. Under the provisions of the House and Senate bills, seniors who want to stay in the current Medicare system will have that option. Plus, a new prescription drug benefit. Seniors who want enhanced benefits such as coverage for preventive care and a cap on out of pocket costs, will have that choice, as well. Seniors who like the affordability of managed care plans will be able to enroll in such plans. And low-income seniors will receive extra help so that all seniors will have the ability to choose a Medicare option that includes prescription drug benefits.
My framework for Medicare reform called for immediate help to seniors through a prescription drug discount card. And I'm pleased this both the House and Senate bills would make a discount card available to seniors. The card would help senior citizens reducing the prescription drug costs beginning early next year and continuing until the new prescription drug program under Medicare takes full affect in 2006.
The Congress must now pass a final bill that makes the Medicare system work better for America's seniors. This is an issue of vital importance to senior citizens all across our country. They have waited years for a modern Medicare system, and they should not have to wait any longer.
Earlier this month in Chicago, I met Gene Preston and his wife Dorothy. They spend about $300 on prescription drugs a month and do not have prescription drug coverage. Gene says everything is going up in price. Before we can save a couple of bucks at the end of the month. But right now, we're just holding even; if not going below even.
When Congress completes its work seniors like Gene and Dorothy Preston can look forward to better healthcare coverage and relief from the rising costs of prescription drugs. I appreciate their hard work of members of Congress, who have set aside partisan differences to do what is best for the American people. I urge members to seize this opportunity to achieve a great and compassionate goal. I urge them to finish the job of strengthening and modernizing Medicare so that I can sign this crucial reform into law.
Thank you for listening.
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