PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES I: Bush, Gore Spar over Rx Plans
Squaring off in the first presidential debate in Boston last night, Tex. Gov. George W. Bush (R) and Vice President Al Gore battled over a number of health-related issues, including Medicare reform and a prescription drug benefit for seniors. Addressing Medicare reform, Bush said, "We need to reform Medicare. ... [T]here's a lot of procedures that have not kept up ... with the current times. ... [W]e need to have a modern system to help seniors. ... [M]y plan sets aside $3.4 trillion for Medicare over the next 10 years." Touting his own Medicare proposal, Gore vowed to "put Medicare in an ironclad lock box" and challenged Bush to "say that he would put Medicare in a lock box," adding, "I don't think he will because under his plan ... $100 billion comes out of Medicare just for the wealthiest 1% in the tax cut." In addition, Gore dismissed Bush's "reforms" as "cuts," arguing that under the Texas governor's plan, "if you kept the same fee-for- service that you have now under Medicare, your premiums would go up by between 18% and 47%." Bush responded, charging, "the man's running on Mediscare, trying to frighten people to the voting booth." He added, "[A]s opposed to politicizing an issue like Medicare ... holding it up as an issue, hoping somebody bites and then try[ing] to clobber them over the head with it for political purposes, ... it's time to say let's get it done, once and for all."
Hard Facts or 'Fuzzy Math?'
On the question of a prescription drug benefit, Gore said, "[U]nder my plan, all seniors will get prescription drugs under Medicare." Attacking Bush's proposal, Gore said that "95% of all seniors would get no help whatsoever under my opponent's plan for the first four or five years ... and then you're pushed into ... an HMO or an insurance company plan and there's no limit on the premiums or the deductibles." Bush, however, defended his prescription drug plan and accused the vice president of using "fuzzy math." He said, "All seniors will be covered. All poor seniors will have their prescription drugs paid for." Gore interrupted, saying, "Let me call your attention to a key word there. He said all poor seniors," but Bush shot back, "No, wait a minute. All seniors are covered under prescription drugs in my plan." In addition, Gore accused Bush of bowing to "powerful interests," such as the pharmaceutical industry. He said, "The big drug companies support Gov. Bush's prescription drug proposal. They oppose mine because they don't want to get Medicare involved because they're afraid that Medicare will negotiate lower prices for seniors." Bush countered, however, that while the vice president has campaigned on prescription drugs for the past eight years, "It seems like [he] can't get it done." The two candidates will meet for the second of three presidential debates on Oct. 11 at Wake Forest University (Debate transcript, New York Times, 10/4).