AL GORE: Boosts Medicare Drug Benefit Proposal
Calling his proposal the "third great pillar" after Medicare and Medicaid, Vice President Al Gore unveiled his "Medi-coverage" plan yesterday -- "a repackaging of earlier Clinton administration proposals plus unlimited new coverage for catastrophic drug costs" (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/23). Bolstered by larger than expected budget surplus estimates, Gore added to his Medicare prescription drug benefit package to ensure that "the very sick will be guaranteed coverage," the AP/Nando Times reports. Under Gore's original proposal, for a $44 monthly premium, half of seniors' drug costs would be covered by Medicare up to $5,000 annually. Those seniors living on incomes of $11,000 a year or less would not be required to pay the premium. Under the expanded plan, the cap would be reduced to $4,000. Democratic presidential opponent Bill Bradley has offered a Medicare drug benefit plan that would require a $25 premium, a 25% co-pay and a $500 annual deductible (Sobieraj, 2/23). Bradley accused Gore of copying his own proposal, saying, "I'll propose something, and soon as people think it's a good idea, he'll propose the same thing. It's 'me too.' This act today is not leadership, it is followership" (Sobieraj, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/24). Gore aides indicated that the new benefit will add an additional $35 billion to $40 billion to Gore's 10-year, $118 billion Medicare proposal. The new proposal comes more than two weeks prior to Florida's March 14 primary (AP/Nando Times, 2/23).
Gore also took the opportunity to lash out at GOP candidates Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain. He said that both candidates favored "weakening Medicare" through private medical savings accounts (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/24).