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Special Event

Vice President Al Gore Proposes to Expand Medicare Coverage

Aired February 23, 2000 - 12:22 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: And as we told you, we were going to bring you some speeches and some appearances this hour on part of the candidates. This one, the Democrat Al Gore, vice president, is in Deerfield Beach, Florida talking about prescription drugs, and expanding access through Medicare to prescription drugs. Let's listen:

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Neither of the Republican candidates supports this proposal.

You know, as a matter of fact, we're now down to what they call the final four. And, yesterday, last night, there was a lot of discussion on television about the Republican contest. Well, you know, I've been following their debate. I'm concentrating on the Democratic semi-final.

But I want you to know that there is an interesting contest on the Republican side that has some features that people haven't focused on. Both of the Republican candidates are against a health care patients' bill of rights. Both of the Republican candidates are for draining money away from the public schools. Neither of the Republican candidates has a plan to move toward universal health care coverage. Neither of the Republican candidates sees anything wrong with flying the Confederate battle flag over a state capital. Both of the Republican candidates have been in favor of weakening Medicare through a form of privatization known at medical savings accounts.

Where the Republican candidates for president are concerned, to paraphrase another Republican, it's not a choice, but an echo. They echo one another in their efforts to attract the extreme right wing and to dismantle some of the protections that we have in our country for seniors today, and they echo one another in their refusal to bring forward responsible health care proposals, to move toward universal health insurance.

Now, I came here with advocates for the kind of proposal that I'm making here today. And, incidentally, the person who, in the United States Senate, who has been Mr. Health Care, Senator Ted Kennedy, endorsed my proposal here today in a statement that he put out today.

(APPLAUSE) And I predict for you that the Democratic nominee for president and the Democratic nominees for House and Senate all across this country will be running on the issue of meta-coverage to provide this prescription drug benefit. And we have two great Democrats from the Congress here with us today, Bob Wexler and Alcee Hastings, and I'm so honored to be here with them and to have their support.

(APPLAUSE)

You know that Bob Wexler has fought so hard for you in this community. You know that he's a family man and that he has fought for seniors. And you know Alcee Hastings is a great friend and champion of seniors. As a matter of fact, his principal policy adviser is still his mother, Mildred Hastings, and she supports prescription drug coverage for seniors. So we've got Alcee's vote on that.

And I want to say a special word of thanks to my campaign chair in the state of Florida, a great champion of working people, Attorney General Bob Butterworth. And we appreciate everything that you stand for, General -- and his wife...

SESNO: Vice President Al Gore making campaign appearance in Deerfield Beach, Florida, talking about his plan to expand access to prescription drugs through the Medicare program, taking very pointed aim not just at George W. Bush, as he's done at times in the past, the presumptive front-runner in the Republican Party, but now, following Michigan and Arizona victories for John McCain, bunching he and McCain -- Bush and McCain together, saying that they are not a choice -- represent not a choice but an echo on education, health care, the Confederate flag and Medicare issues.

In effect, this could be seen as Al Gore talking to those Democrats and Independents who have been flocking to John McCain because Al Gore wants to keep them in the fold in the Democratic Party as he proceeds forward, presuming that he becomes the nominee of his party. He, of course, still faces a challenge from Bill Bradley.

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