Democrats Criticize Bush’s 10-Year, $190 Billion Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Proposal in Radio Address
President Bush's fiscal year 2003 budget proposal to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare would cover only 30% of seniors, "fall[ing] short" of the president's campaign pledge to help all Medicare beneficiaries purchase medication, Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address. Urging Bush to support broader reforms, Rockefeller said, "[Bush's plan] offers no coverage at all for the other 70% of seniors -- about 7 million middle-class seniors -- many of whom pay thousands of dollars a year, often out of fixed retirement incomes, for the medications that in fact keep them alive" (Reuters/Tallahassee Democrat, 3/2). Rockefeller added that while drug prices are rising at five times the rate of inflation, Bush's plan provides less funding for prescription drugs than Congress approved last year. "The dreams of millions of seniors are threatened by the runaway cost of prescription drugs," he said (CNN.com, 3/2). Bush's $190 billion, 10-year Medicare reform plan would give $77 billion to states to provide prescription drug coverage to seniors through Medicaid. The program would cover seniors with annual incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty level, about $12,880 for singles and $17,400 for couples. It would also allocate an unspecified amount to add a limited drug benefit to Medicare and add two more options for Medigap supplemental policies (California Healthline, 2/5). Lawmakers from both parties have said the plan does not allocate enough money for prescription drug coverage, and Republicans have "indicated that their budget will include about $300 billion for Medicare," the Reuters/Democrat reports. Democrats have not yet released their budgetary estimates for Medicare reform (Reuters/Tallahassee Democrat, 3/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.