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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 8, 2000

Today, in his weekly radio address, President Clinton will urge the Congress to recommit itself to passing an affordable Medicare prescription drug benefit option for all Medicare beneficiaries as it returns from the July 4th recess. The President will criticize the pharmaceutical industry for unleashing a multi-million dollar lobbying and ad campaign designed to thwart the desires of the vast majority of Americans to pass a meaningful Medicare prescription drug benefit option. In so doing, he will cite a report released just today that documents how an approach similar to the pharmaceutical industry supported, House Republican private insurance approach is not working. The President will call on the Congress to reject the narrow special interest campaign and act together on a bipartisan basis to respond to the public interest. He will reiterate his commitment to work in good faith to that end, citing his recent proposed compromise to sign into law marriage penalty relief provisions if the Congress also sends him a voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit that is affordable and available to all seniors and eligible people with disabilities.

MILLIONS OF MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES HAVE NO OR UNDEPENDABLE PRESCRIPTION DRUG COVERAGE. Over 13 million Medicare beneficiaries have no drug coverage, and over three in five beneficiaries have undependable drug coverage. Medigap and managed care prescription drug coverage is either expensive, extremely limited, and / or unavailable. Moreover, over half of the Medicare beneficiaries who lack drug coverage altogether have incomes greater than 150 percent of poverty ($12,525 for a single, nearly $17,000 for a couple). Seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare without drug coverage fill 30 percent fewer prescriptions than those with coverage, but pay 83 percent more out-of-pocket for drugs. Today, the President will:

CRITICIZE IRRESPONSIBLE LOBBYING CAMPAIGN AGAINST A TRUE MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT. Recent reports indicate that the drug industry has spent over $236 million and hired almost 300 lobbyists -- more than one for every two Members of Congress. One industry-funded group, Citizens for Better Medicare, dedicated up to $65 million for ads and other lobbying efforts designed to defeat a prescription drug benefit that is available and affordable for all Medicare beneficiaries.

CITE EVIDENCE INDICATING THAT THE PRIVATE INSURANCE DRUG BENEFIT PROPOSED BY THE HOUSE REPUBLICANS WILL NOT WORK. News reports released today indicate that a private prescription drug benefit, similar to the plan passed by the House Republicans and supported by the pharmaceutical industry, has not worked in real practice. The state of Nevada, which has implemented a such a plan, reported that they have not been able to find one qualified insurer to participate. This new information supports the longstanding position of the insurance industry that a private insurance benefit will not work and provides an empty promise to seniors.

URGE CONGRESS TO REJECT SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS LOBBYING AGAINST AN AFFORDABLE MEDICARE BENEFIT OPTION. President Clinton will call on the Congress to place Medicare beneficiaries' interests over those of the special interests and craft a bipartisan bill that is affordable and available to all beneficiaries.

CALL ON THE CONGRESS TO ACT IN A BIPARTISAN FASHION AND CRAFT A MEANINGFUL MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION BENEFIT. With only 40 days left in the legislative session, President Clinton will urge the Congress to act now to design a meaningful and accessible prescription drug benefit option for all Medicare beneficiaries. To that end, the President has proposed a voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit that would begin in 2002 and, in return for a $25 premium, provide prescription drug coverage that would have a zero deductible and cover half of all prescription drug costs up to $5,000 when fully phased in as well as limiting all out-of-pocket medication costs to $4,000. This optional benefit would also provide negotiated discounts that would ensure that Medicare beneficiaries no longer pay the highest prices in the marketplace. The President's proposal is part of a broader set of reforms that would take the Medicare Trust Fund off budget, extending its life to at least 2030, make the program more efficient and competitive, and dedicate $40 billion over 10 years to improve health care provider payment rates.

REITERATE HIS OFFER TO THE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP TO WORK TOGETHER ON TARGETED TAX RELIEF IN CONJUNCTION WITH PROGRESS ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. Today, the President will reiterate his offer to the Republican leadership to move forward on priorities for American families in a fiscally responsible manner. The President's offer builds on bipartisan consensus on three issues: first, the Congress should agree to the Vice President's proposal to lock away Social Security and Medicare surpluses for debt reduction, and to help extend the life of the Trust Fund; second, American families should have marriage penalty tax relief; and third, seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare need an affordable Medicare prescription drug benefit. The President will repeat his offer that if the Congressional leadership agrees to an overall framework of fiscal discipline that takes Medicare off-budget, he would be willing to sign broader marriage penalty relief legislation if the Congress will pass his prescription drug plan.