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Clinton Uses Executive Authority to Expand Medicare Coverage

Aired June 7, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton invoked his executive power today, ordering Medicare to pay the way for older Americans involved in clinical trials. The idea, says the White House, is to speed up the discovery of useful new treatments for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's; never mind the potential political gain.

CNN's Kathleen Koch reports from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All new drugs and treatments for everything from cancer to diabetes must first be tested on humans before they're approved. Now President Clinton is mandating that, for the first time, Medicare cover the costs of patient care and any medical complications from such clinical trials.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must help more seniors participate in clinical trials that test new therapies for illnesses from cancer, to heart disease, to Alzheimer's. These trials may prolong lives, and they are central to finding cures for deadly diseases.

KOCH: Until now, Medicare, which pays for the health care of 39 million seniors and the disabled, wouldn't cover such costs. As a result, the elderly, those most likely to suffer from disease, are reluctant to get involved and only make up one percent of those participating in clinical trials.

Senior citizens who do sign on can be saddled with thousands of dollars in medical bills. President Clinton called on private health care plans to follow Medicare's lead and cover clinical trial costs as well. Many private insurers now deny such coverage, calling the treatments experimental.

There is bipartisan support in Congress for broadening Medicare to cover clinical test costs. The president did praise Vice President Gore for leading the administration's efforts to help increase senior participation in clinical trials.

(on camera): Mr. Clinton denied that was an effort to curry favor with a large and active voting block, instead just giving credit for what he says was months of work on the issue.

Kathleen Koch, for CNN, the White House. (END VIDEOTAPE)

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