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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 6, 1993
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                           The Oval Office 

3:25 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Today we will have between 7,000 and 8,000 senior citizens going through the White House -- just today. Seeing -- getting the tour and everything.

So, I'm glad you did it and Hillary and I just wanted to comment and say hello to you and ask you just to take a few minutes and visit with us about this year and what we're going to be doing next year on the health care issue. Because our efforts to change the health care system affect senior citizens about as much as any group in the country.

And the most important things that I wanted to emphasize about what we're trying to do is first, we don't mess up what's alright now. We leave Medicare alone the way it is except that we add for senior citizens, as well as for working people, a prescription drug benefit for the first time. When I ran for President and I spent so much time in the New Hampshire area when I was running, and I went to countless little meetings like this, the number one thing that people would tell me who were on Medicare is that they wanted a prescription drug benefit -- that it was a terrible burden. So the way that this benefit will work is that every year there will be a $250 deductible after which everyone's Medicare policy will cover the drugs that they are prescribed plus a modest co-pay -- a small one.

And the other thing that this does that I think is so important is to provide some options under long-term care. Today, there are a couple of problems with long-term care. One is that often times people can't get it unless they spend themselves from Medicare down into the Medicaid eligibility and then, often the only option they have is a nursing home. So, what we want to do is to keep the nursing home option, but to add in-home care, to add community-based -- like boarding home care -- to the nursing home option. And we will phase that in over a few years as we achieve savings from the other changes in the program. But, those are the things that I think are very, very important to our country.

The fastest growing group of Americans are people over 80. And we know that with proper medication people of all ages actually are more likely to stay out of hospitals, more likely to stay healthy, more likely to have lower health care costs over the long run. But that's especially true of senior citizens. We also know that with the fastest growing group of people being over 80, not everybody will be in the same condition. And more and more people will want to have the option to stay at home or to be -- maybe to leave for a few hours a day and be in some sort of community-based care system. So, we think it's really important to move away from an undue bias on nursing homes to let people have broader options. So, that's basically what this health care plan does.

And we're going to do our best to try to pass it next year and bring about some real security for people who are -- for younger people who don't have Medicare, the most important thing about it is it will give them a package of health care benefits that they can never lose. That's the biggest problem for people who are insured in the system today -- they can lose their benefits. And about 100,000 Americans a month lose it permanently. A lot of Americans are insured at work, but their children aren't insured. There are all these problems, and those will be fixed. But for senior citizens, the number one benefit will be the prescription drugs and the change in the coverage of long-term care.

END3:31 P.M. EST