Rodham Clinton Criticizes Launch of Medicare Drug Benefit
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) launched a "sharp attack" on the new Medicare prescription drug benefit as part of a tour of several upstate New York cities on Monday, the New York Times reports. Speaking in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo at pharmacies, a clinic and a hospital, Rodham Clinton criticized what she said was the Bush administration's failure to solve problems in the new drug benefit.
Noting that some low-income Medicare beneficiaries have been charged hundreds of dollars for their medications, she said, "Senior citizens were promised prescription drug coverage; they are now on their own" (Hernandez, New York Times, 1/24).
Rodham Clinton has co-sponsored a bill to reimburse states and pharmacies that are providing drug coverage to dual eligibles who have been unable to obtain needed medications. The legislation also would ensure that health plans are following Medicare rules.
Health plans that do not follow the rules must be "kick[ed] ... out of the program," Rodham Clinton said, adding, "These are the poorest of our citizens, the sickest of our citizens" (Davia, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 1/24).
According to Long Island Newsday, Rodham Clinton's comments on Medicare were made during "the first of several health care forums geared at hearing constituents' complaints" about health care and "exploring alternative systems" (Thrush, Long Island Newsday, 1/24). She also criticized the Bush administration for enacting policies that she contends drive up medical costs and do little to reduce the number of uninsured U.S. residents (McAuliff, New York Daily News, 1/24).
Referring to her own efforts to reform the U.S. health care system in 1993, Rodham Clinton said, "It may be that 12 years ago we tried to do too much too fast, but I think today we're making things worse with deliberate neglect and flawed policies that are diminishing the coverage that Americans have. I'm ready to get back into the fray, knowing how difficult and controversial it is" (Long Island Newsday, 1/24).
White House spokesperson Trent Duffy said that the "American people and the Congress rejected" Rodham Clinton's proposal 12 years ago "because it's the wrong prescription for America." He added that U.S. residents do not want a "Hillary-run health care plan that has led to the rationing and the other things we've seen in Canada" (New York Daily News, 1/24).
Duffy said, "The Bush administration and the Republican Congress delivered," noting that federal officials are working to address problems in the Medicare drug benefit (New York Times, 1/24).
Tracey Schmitt, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, said, "Does Hillary really want to talk about health care? The American people were pretty clear in rejecting a program that would have cost hard-working taxpayers billions of dollars" (Long Island Newsday, 1/24).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit also is available online.