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CNN Today

House Republicans Unveil Plan to Ease Drug Costs for Seniors

Aired June 13, 2000 - 2:06 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: In Washington, the volume grew louder today in the debate concerning older Americans and the cost of medication they often need to lead healthy lives.

As CNN's Eileen O'Connor reports, the latest plan to lighten the burden comes from Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House GOP leaders unveiled what they call a bipartisan plan to extend Medicare Plus Choice and encourage insurers to provide a prescription drug benefit for seniors. Minutes later at the White House, President Clinton took the podium to blast it as unworkable.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are tons of people in this country who can't afford the Medigap insurance policy.

O'CONNOR: Republican leaders say their plan will provide incentives to insurance companies, and perhaps even drug stores, to offer private prescription drug plans senior could choose from. The House GOP plan would also pay all the premiums for seniors with less than $12,500 in yearly income, including Social Security; pay 30-35 percent of the premiums of private plans for all seniors, and limit out-of-pocket costs to $5,000 to $6,000, covering any expenses above that limit.

Republican leaders argue the risk to insurers of covering those with higher drug costs will be spread among the 38 million Medicare beneficiaries.

Still, many private insurers are already pulling out of Medicare Plus Choice and are balking at the cost of covering prescription drugs for an elderly, sicker population that uses more than most. That is why some critics call the House plan nothing more than political cover in an election year.

RON POLLACK, FAMILIES USA: I think this issue is going to be one of the top two or three political issues in the upcoming campaign. And so it's going to get raised over and over and over again. And what, undoubtedly, we're going to hear is the Republicans saying, well, we offered a proposal. We really cared. O'CONNOR (on camera): The Senate was also discussing prescription drugs and how much less expensive they are in other countries. Still, it was all the same conversation: finding a way to help seniors afford the medications they need.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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