Rx DRUG BENEFIT: White House Battles GOP Proposals
President Clinton will tackle one of the hottest topics of the presidential campaign Tuesday when he meets with congressional leaders to discuss competing Republican and Democratic plans for prescription drug coverage, the Washington Post reports. According to White House officials, Clinton will oppose the proposed Republican plans because they would "fail to reach many low-income seniors" and would "take far longer to establish" than Democratic alternatives. White House Chief of Staff John Podesta implied that the Clinton administration would prefer to spurn the Republican plans and "keep the issue alive" in the presidential campaign. "When people look at what is in that (GOP) plan, they're going to find two-thirds of Medicare recipients are left out, 50% of the people without drug coverage are left out," Podesta said. Many Republican leaders are rallying behind a bill sponsored by Sen. William Roth (R-Del.), which would initially deliver benefits through state programs. Democratic initiatives propose offering drug coverage through Medicare. The Roth bill would "limit participation to seniors who meet certain income limits," while Democratic proposals would extend benefits to all seniors eligible for Medicare. Supporters of Roth's bill claim that Democratic proposals would take too long to implement, while Democrats criticize the GOP bill as "unrealistic" because it expects all states to have programs running one year after federal legislation is enacted. Some politicians, such as Gov. Tom Ridge (R-Pa.), feel that the prescription drug issue should be addressed in the presidential campaign rather than on Capitol Hill. "If anybody were to ask my opinion ... I think we ought to let the candidates lay out their proposals and let the voters decide," Ridge said. Other leaders, however, feel that the issue can remain viable in the campaign whether or not legislation is passed. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said, "We've been able to demonstrate in the past that you can have both the accomplishment and the issue, and I think on this particular issue, that's truly the case" (Suro, 9/11).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.