View Header

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 16, 2000


                              May 16, 2000                               

Today, the President will announce his support for extending prescription drug coverage to military retirees and will urge Congress to show the same bipartisan support for extending coverage to all Medicare beneficiaries. Tomorrow, the House is scheduled to vote on the Department of Defense Authorization bill that includes a provision, passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 56 to 1 committee vote, to extend the prescription drug coverage now available to military retirees under the age of 65 to all militaryretirees over the age of 65. Like other seniors, the nation's 1.4 million Medicare-eligible military retirees are disproportionately uninsured and face prohibitively high prices for prescription drugs. While some military retirees live close enough to military treatment facilities to access prescription drugs, these facilities are out of reach for about three out of four retirees. The President will point out that passage of this prescription drug legislation will not only provide long overdue assistance to the American men and women who have served in the military, but it will assist in the Defense Department's recruitment and retention efforts. He will also emphasize that it is essential to ensure that all seniors and eligible Americans with disabilities have access to an affordable, voluntary, accessible Medicare prescription drug benefit.

UNCOVERED SENIORS PAY MORE FOR LESS. Uninsured seniors purchase one-third fewer drugs but pay nearly twice as much out-of-pocket. Many of the 1.4 million Medicare-eligible military retirees lack access to affordable prescription drugs. While they have become essential to modern health care, prescription drugs are not covered by Medicare.

PRESIDENT CLINTON URGES CONGRESS TO EXTEND PRESCRIPTION DRUG COVERAGE TO MILITARY RETIREES OVER AGE 65. The House Armed Services Committee's Authorization bill, developed by Congressmen Spence, Skelton, Buyer and Abercrombie, would provide affordable prescription drugs to military retirees. A similar provision was passed in the Senate Armed Services Committee, under the leadership of Senators Warner, Levin, Allard and Cleland. The House bill would allow retirees to access:

BUILDS ON ADMINISTRATION'S COMMITMENT TO REWARDING MILITARY SERVICE AND IMPROVING RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION. Supporting the House provision will help the nation live up to its commitment to provide needed health care for our military retirees. As Secretary Cohen stated in his letter of support, "They spent their careers defending our country, and deserve our support in retirement." The provision of prescription drug coverage also complements our past efforts to attract and retain needed personnel with pay and pension improvements.

TODAY'S ACTION IS CONSISTENT WITH THE PRESIDENT'S EFFORTS TO EXTEND PRESCRIPTION DRUGS TO ALL MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES. Extending prescription drug coverage to military retirees is entirely consistent with the need for a voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit that is accessible and affordable to all beneficiaries. The President's plan is:

--Consistent with broader reform. The new, voluntary prescription drug benefit is part of a larger plan to strengthen and modernize Medicare. This plan would make Medicare more competitive and efficient, reduce fraud and out-year cost increases, promote fair payments, and improve preventive benefits in Medicare. The plan would also dedicate $299 billion from the non-Social Security surplus to Medicare to help extend its solvency to at least 2030.