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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Medicare Reform Bill Passes

Aired November 25, 2003 - 10:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you back to Washington now, where we are hearing from minority leader Tom Daschle, a response to the Medicare reform bill that has just passed this morning. Let's listen in.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: ... very soon. Already we've seen plenty of indication that seniors, as they look more closely at this legislation, already want it fixed.

They want us to ensure that they are not going to be paying higher prices. They want us to ensure that they are not going to be coerced into an HMO. They want us to ensure that seniors are not going to lose their private drug coverage. They want us to ensure that there is a good Medicare backup if we're going to be forced into an HMO arrangement providing drug coverage in some states.

They want us, in other words, to ensure that they have more confidence in what we're doing than what this bill allows today.

One of the papers in my state had a poll this morning asking if you think this bill is adequate; 64 percent said no, it was not adequate. I think that reflects the sentiment in my entire state and in the country.

I couldn't help but notice today that you had to look hard to find one senior citizen in the galleries -- not one.

As I looked, I was struck by how vacant the galleries were and how few senior citizens were looking down. And what a striking contrast it was to that time 38 years ago when I'm told the galleries were filled with seniors expressing hope and optimism about what it may mean for the first time to have real, meaningful health care coverage for themselves and their families.

You didn't see the euphoria today, and you didn't for good reason: There is no reason for it. What you saw instead were lobbyists packing the hallways, lobbyists representing drug companies and insurance companies who all are obviously quite pleased with this result. They'll do well. Our seniors will not, and that's why this fight must go on.

Ted Kennedy?

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you.

First of all I want to thank Senator Daschle for his strong leadership in protecting the elderly and Medicare recipients in this country, and his leadership, the floor of the Senate and in the country on this issue.

We move now from the floor of the United States Senate to the highways and byways of this country, the senior citizen centers, to the nursing homes, to the other locations where seniors gather where they'll have a chance to come together and begin to express their views -- now it'll be in the ballot box -- express their views about this piece of legislation and demand the kind of change that we know that they will demand in the future.

The test of every great civilization is how it cares for its elderly, particularly those who are most vulnerable. It was in that spirit that the Congress and Senate expressed the best values of the United States when we passed the Medicare system in 1965.

I was here in 1964 when the Medicare system was defeated and defeated handily by a greater spread than we saw out there on the floor of the United States Senate just a few minutes ago. And I was here in 1965 when it passed overwhelmingly.

KENNEDY: The great difference was the fact that the elderly became mobilized and they expressed their views and they elected men and women to the Senate of the United States, in that case, which overturned the decision that had been made earlier not to have a Medicare system.

And I was here when we had the catastrophic health insurance which was heralded. And then I was here when the elderly people spoke again and we overturned that decision. That is going to be the same with regards to this program that passed today in the United States Senate.

The values which motivated this country to care for its senior citizens are still there. And we're calling on them today to help us as we continue this battle. And we will continue this battle in every opportunity here in the United States Senate and in the course of the elections.

And I'm absolutely convinced that at the end of the day, that we will preserve the Medicare system, which is threatened seriously by this proposal. And we will get the day when we have a real prescription drug program which our seniors deserve and which this nation owes to those individuals who brought this nation out of the Depression, fought in the great wars and have made this country the great country that it is.

COLLINS: All right, we have been listening to Senator Ted Kennedy. Prior to that minority leader Tom Daschle speaking on the Medicare reform bill that passed this morning, 54-44, in the Senate. We'll be talking much more about it as our day continues.

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