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Bush Urges Medicare Reform - 2002-05-18

President Bush has said older Americans need more help paying for prescription drugs. Mr. Bush wants Congress to reform Medicare to help offset drug costs and give people more choices of health insurance.

President Bush said the federal Medicare program is often too expensive for older Americans without covering high prescription drug costs or offering enough choices of treatments or insurance coverage.

"Seniors should have affordable coverage choices that meet their needs. But Medicare does not do that. Many seniors need prescription drug coverage. Medicare does not provide it. And because Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, seniors often pay the highest prices for drugs out of their own pockets, forcing too many of our seniors to choose between paying for pills or paying their bills," Mr. Bush said.

Before those full prescription drug benefits become available, President Bush said he wants temporary assistance for lower income seniors through a Medicare-endorsed drug card that would allow them to get lower prices for drug manufacturers right away.

In his weekly radio address, the president said Medicare has failed to keep up with medical advances and does not offer enough treatment choices for people unable to afford private supplemental coverage.

"Many of these treatments and programs that can save and improve lives, and reduce health care costs, are only available through Medicare's private plans. Unfortunately, millions of Medicare members do not have the option to choose these benefits," Mr. Bush said.

While more than five million Medicare members do have access to health insurance and prescription drug coverage, President Bush said over 100 private plans have left the program because of current restrictions on coverage.

With Congress working on legislation to reform Medicare, President Bush says the program needs a fair system of competition to encourage more benefits and options for better care at lower costs.