Presidential Radio Address - 15 November 2003
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week I traveled to Florida to visit with seniors about an important goal for my administration and this nation. After years of debate and deadlock, the Congress is finishing work on the biggest improvements in senior health care coverage in nearly 40 years.
Some important details of the Medicare legislation have to be worked out, but leaders in both the House and the Senate have already agreed to four clear-cut improvements to Medicare.
First: Within six months of Medicare reform law, all seniors would be eligible for a Medicare-approved drug discount card. This card would give seniors an immediate 10 to 25 percent savings on the cost of their medicines. For seniors with typical drug costs of $1,285 a year, the card would deliver annual savings of up to $300. And for low-income seniors, the discount card would include a $600 annual credit toward drug costs.
Second: Beginning in 2006, we would establish Medicare prescription drug coverage for all seniors who want it, at a monthly premium of about $35. For most seniors without coverage today, the new coverage would cut their annual drug bills roughly in half.
Third: Seniors with the greatest need will get the most help. Low-income seniors would pay a reduced premium or no premium at all for the new drug coverage. And low-income seniors would also have lower co-payments for their medicines.
Fourth: Our seniors would enjoy more choices in their health coverage, including the same kind of choices that members of Congress and other federal employees enjoy. If seniors have more choices, health plans will compete for their business, by offering better coverage at affordable prices.
The choices we support include the choice of remaining in the traditional Medicare program. Some seniors don't want change, and if you're a senior who wants to stay in the current Medicare system, you will have that option. And with that option, you will also be able to get Medicare approved prescription drug coverage.
Some seniors may choose a new Medicare-approved private plan, that includes a drug benefit, along with other options. Such options could include coverage for extended hospital stays or protection against high out-of-pocket medical expenses. Others may prefer managed care plans. Under the approach I support, seniors would have these options, as well.
American seniors are calling for these improvements. Among the seniors I met in Florida was Marge MacDonald. Marge and her husband Mac do not have prescription drug coverage, and they are frustrated. Here is what Marge says: "I'm tired of the talk. Sooner or later somebody needs to do something."
Marge is right. The time for delay and deadlock has passed. Now is the time for action.
I ask seniors, and all Americans, to speak up, to call and write your representatives and senators, and urge them to work out a final bill. Congress has an historic opportunity to give all our seniors prescription drug coverage, health care choices and a healthier, more secure retirement. We must make these improvements this year, during this session of Congress. And with your help, we will get the job done.
Thank you for listening.