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Democrats Unveil Prescription Drug Benefit Proposal

Aired May 10, 2000 - 1:39 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The lawmakers are making a last-ditch effort to revive a proposal to make prescription drugs more affordable.

CNN's Kelly Wallace joins us with that from the White House -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, helping seniors with the high cost of prescription drugs is a very popular election-year issue. A few weeks ago, Republicans unveiled their ideas about how to provide affordable drug coverage.

And today, President Clinton, flanked by congressional Democrats, tried to rally support for the Democratic approach.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's seniors, men and women, deserve better. No one should be forced to take a bus trip to Canada to get medicines made in the U.S. at a lower price. We desperately need a comprehensive plan to provide a prescription drug benefit that is optional, affordable, accessible to all.

WALLACE (voice-over): The Democratic plan is voluntary and available to all Medicare recipients. Seniors would pay premiums starting at $26 a month, and pay one-half of their prescription drug costs. The price tag: $200 billion over 10 years.

But an alliance of insurance companies sees the plan as big government getting in the way of a free market and competition.

NONA WEGNER, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL FOR AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE: This is, again, a sort of one-size-fits-all plan, where you might be causing people who already have coverage to lose that coverage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: House Republicans say the Democratic plan may be too costly. Under their plan, they would propose a prescription drug subsidy for only the poorest seniors, and those with unusually high drug costs. They also call for private insurance companies to offer drug coverage for low-income seniors.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, reporting live from the White House.

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