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Bush Praises New Prescription Drug Legislation

President Bush is returning to domestic politics, following a state visit to Britain that was dominated by talk of fighting terrorism. Mr. Bush is praising the House of Representatives for approving changes in the way older Americans pay for prescription drugs.

President Bush says senior citizens should have more control over health care. His plan allows them to stay in the traditional Medicare program and receive a prescription drug benefit, or pay more for expanded coverage for extended hospital stays or managed-care plans.

"With choice, seniors would have more control over their health care options, and health plans would compete for the business with better coverage," he said.

In his weekly radio address, the president says his plan would cut drug bills roughly in half for most seniors without coverage today.

Senate Democrats say the plan would hurt lower-income seniors, because wealthier Americans would leave traditional Medicare, reducing the pool of available funds.

Mr. Bush says seniors with the highest drug bills would save the most, and seniors with the greatest need would get the most help. He says low-income seniors would pay a reduced premium, or no premium at all for the new drug coverage, along with lower co-payments for their medicines.

Within six months of the plan's start, seniors would be eligible for a drug discount card that would save them between 10 and 25 percent of the retail price of most drugs. When the full benefit arrives in 2006, Mr. Bush says all seniors would be eligible for drug coverage for a monthly premium of about $35.

Health care reform is already an issue in the presidential campaign, with Republicans winning the endorsement of the nation's leading senior group, representing 35 million older Americans. President Bush has been campaigning on the prescription drug program, especially in Florida, where seniors make up an important voting block.

In his radio address, he put the political burden squarely on Congress, saying it is now up to legislators to decide whether seniors will have better health care choices.

"I urge all members of Congress to remember what is at stake, and to remember the promise we have made to America's seniors," said president Bush. "The quality of their health care, and the future strength of Medicare, depends on the passage of this much needed legislation."

Democrats used their weekly radio address to criticize the president for deciding to store nuclear waste in the western state of Nevada.

Speaker of the State Assembly Richard Perkins says the president broke a campaign promise by rushing ahead with plans to develop a national repository for the radioactive waste, without adequately answering questions of safety.

For the first time in his presidency, Mr. Bush visits Nevada Tuesday to talk about Medicare reform and raise money for his re-election campaign.

During the visit, Speaker Perkins says, the president should, "rebuild his credibility by reconsidering the decision to transport 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste to an underground Nevada repository starting in 2010."