AL GORE: Releases Medicare ‘Manifesto,’ Anti-Bush Video
Releasing his 74-page "Medicare manifesto" at a campaign stop in Florida yesterday, Vice President Al Gore promised he would not "push" seniors into HMOs and criticized rival Texas Gov. George W. Bush's (R) Medicare reform package, the AP/Investor's Business Daily reports. The book, titled "Medicare at the Crossroads," includes the vice president's previously announced Medicare reforms and new provisions for stabilizing Medicare HMOs (AP/Investor's Business Daily, 9/26). "The heart of my agenda is a rock-solid commitment to Medicare," Gore announced to a crowd of seniors, adding that HMOs and insurance companies "want to measure your health and well-being on a spreadsheet" (Sisk, New York Daily News, 9/26). He said, "The choice comes down to this: Will we have a president who stands up and fights for the seniors who need health care?" (Page/Lawrence, USA Today, 9/26). Under his proposal, Gore would double the minimum time requirement for HMOs contracting with Medicare to two years, as well as double the penalty for HMOs that drop patients by barring them from rejoining Medicare for four years. He would also permanently banish HMOs from the Medicare market for "cherry-picking" healthy beneficiaries. "We will no longer just accept the rising wave of HMOs dropping seniors and denying them coverage all to enhance their bottom line," Gore said. In addition, Gore proposed eliminating Medicare copayments and deductibles for some preventive services, a move that would cost $8 billion over 10 years (Sack, New York Times, 9/26).
Criticizing Bush's Plan
Gore also criticized Bush's Medicare reform plan, arguing that it could "run seniors through welfare offices" and would "violate their sense of dignity." Calling Republicans "the natural-born enemies" of Medicare, Gore said, "I won't go along with plans that would force (seniors) into HMOs. The other side has called Medicare a 'government HMO.' They really never have liked it" (AP/Investor's Business Daily, 9/26). Bush spokesperson Dan Bartlett called the vice president's accusations "fairy tales" (New York Daily News, 9/25). "Given all the things he made up last week and is making up today, Al Gore is quickly becoming the Hans Christian Andersen of American politics," Bartlett said (Cain, Washington Times, 9/26). Gore's criticisms also raised questions among analysts about "whether the vice president was playing racial and class warfare politics to court elderly voters, as well as suburban whites." According to Bush spokesperson Ari Fleischer, "He's trying to turn voters against Gov. Bush by scaring seniors" ( AP/Baltimore Sun, 9/26).
'George W. Bush is Newt Gingrich'
In other campaign news, the Gore campaign has unearthed and released an Oct. 19, 1995, television interview in which Bush expressed support for GOP-proposed Medicare cutbacks, "one of the most unpopular stands of the House Republicans under former speaker Newt Gingrich." The Washington Post called the release "an attempt to undermine" Bush's effort to "portray himself as more trustworthy" than Gore on Medicare. During the interview, which aired in 1995 on Austin's KXAN, Bush lauded the "political courage" of House Republicans for legislation that would have cut Medicare spending by $270 billion over seven years (Milbank, Washington Post, 9/26). "Elderly people will not suffer as a result of this plan. It's going to make [Medicare] solvent. And Republicans will be heralded, not only for saving Medicare, but at the same time for having the political courage to balance the budget," Bush said in the interview. The Gore campaign called the comments "very revealing of [Bush's] basic attitude toward Medicare." Gore said, "He doesn't like [Medicare]. He disagrees with its basic premise and he is looking for any politically viable opportunity to gut it." Bartlett dismissed Gore's charges, arguing, "What is important here is not what Gov. Bush said about a plan five years ago that wasn't even his" (New York Times, 9/26). "The vice president is trying to fight old battles and find old bogeymen. Seniors aren't going to be frightened by his scare tactics this time around," he added. The Bush campaign also said that Gore's Medicare reform proposal "offers accounting gimmicks, distortions and made-up facts" (Washington Post, 9/26). According to Gore spokesperson Chris Lehane, however, "In 1995, Al Gore fought for America's families and against the Gingrich plan to slash Medicare ... George W. Bush is Newt Gingrich" (Reuters/AZCentral.com, 9/26).