President Bush Promotes New Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit in Atlanta
President Bush on Friday at an invitation-only event in Atlanta praised the new Medicare prescription drug benefit as a "good deal" that will reduce costs for beneficiaries, the AP/Seattle Times reports (AP/Seattle Times, 7/23).
Bush visited Atlanta with his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, to promote his "senior security package," which includes Medicare and Social Security reforms (Rosenbaum, New York Times, 7/23). At the event, President Bush and Barbara Bush discussed the importance of enrollment in the Medicare prescription drug benefit and raised concerns that beneficiaries might not understand the program (AP/Seattle Times, 7/23).
President Bush asked the children of Medicare beneficiaries to help educate their parents about the prescription drug benefit, adding, "The more choices consumers get, the better off consumers are." He said that Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in the prescription drug benefit will receive an average of $1,300 in federal aid to help cover the cost of medications (Miller, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/23).
President Bush also recommended that low-income Medicare beneficiaries enroll in the prescription drug benefit, adding, "If you're a low-income senior, you need to get the form and fill it out. It'll help you a lot" (VandeHei, Washington Post, 7/23).
Before the event, President Bush visited a neighborhood center where several seniors received instructions on how to help low-income Medicare beneficiaries enroll in the prescription drug benefit (Chen, Los Angeles Times, 7/23). He said that, although the Medicare prescription drug benefit might prompt "a little anxiety" among beneficiaries, the program is "really going to help a lot of people" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/23).
White House spokesperson Scott McClellan and CMS Administrator Mark McClellan also attended the event (Washington Post, 7/23).
In related news, USA Today on Monday examined the nationwide effort to educate Medicare beneficiaries about the new prescription drug benefit. According to USA Today, the Bush administration has "aggressively" sought to educate and enroll Medicare beneficiaries in the prescription drug benefit to avoid potential confusion about the program.
"This has to be a 'boots-on-the-ground' sort of situation," Mark Lassiter, a spokesperson for the Social Security Administration, said, adding, "You can't just put an ad on a billboard."
Vicki Gottlich, senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said, "People don't understand" the Medicare prescription drug benefit, adding, "They get confused by the low-income subsidy, and then they get confused by the benefit."
In response, SSA to date has held 23,000 meetings with community groups and Medicare beneficiaries about the prescription drug benefit and a coalition of 40 groups has launched a public education campaign to inform beneficiaries about the program (Wolf, USA Today, 7/25).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.