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Gore Campaigns in Independence, Missouri

Aired August 14, 2000 - 1:07 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to Independence, Missouri, where the vice president at the home of Harry S. Truman, another vice president who was elected with long odds against him. And it's also the 65th anniversary of Social Security with this visit near Kansas City.

The vice president is speaking. Let's listen.


VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Talking about my dad, the year before Medicare was passed in 1964, one of our family's greatest sources of pride is that my dad authored the first Medicare bill to pass the United States Senate. That one didn't pass the House that year.

But after the landslide of '64, then in February of '65, the new Medicare proposal did pass.

Now, it's an issue in this election year. And it's worth remembering why Medicare is so important. Before it passed, only 50 percent of our senior citizens had health insurance. After it passed, 95 percent of our seniors had health insurance. That made a tremendous difference.

Now, today, we see from all of the stories that are coming from our own families and from people far and wide that prescription drug bills are so high that seniors need some improvements to Medicare. That's why I'm fighting in this election year to make this in part a mandate on whether or not we are going to have prescription dug benefits.

Joe Lieberman and I are for prescription drug benefits under the Medicare program for all of our senior citizens. It is time to give them that help because they're having trouble paying their bills.


Now there is a contrast in this election. And the American people deserve to know the details of what is being proposed by the two major parties on Medicare, on Social Security, on the prescription drug benefit that I just mentioned.

Let me just give you some specific examples. The other side has proposed privatizing a major part of Social Security. I believe, for reasons I will spell out in my speech Thursday night in Los Angeles, that -- that that's not in the best interest of America's seniors. But they couch in rhetoric that makes it sound like they're after the same goals that we are.

On Medicare, the population of seniors eligible for Medicare will be doubling as the baby boomer retires from 40 million people now to 80 million people, and that's going to put a financial strain on Medicare, nothing we can't handle, particularly with these big budget surpluses, but we do have to adjust to it.

How will we do so? Well, in my balanced budget proposals, I set aside the surplus to deal with that problem to help out with both Social Security and Medicare. On the other side, for all the sentiment and expressions of support, they do not carve out any new money for Medicare even as the need is growing so fast. That's a contrast.

On prescription drug benefits, here is the -- here is the specific proposal on the other side, so you can judge for yourself. And ask them questions if you think I'm not describing it in an objective way. They want to give money to insurance companies in the form of a subsidy to help you buy a brand-new kind of insurance policy that will cover prescription drugs.

Now, the insurance companies say that that won't work and they don't want it because, unlike other kinds of health insurance, they say practically everybody takes prescription drugs when they get older now. It's not as if they're gambling that some will and some won't the way they gamble on insurance coverage. Most people stay relatively healthy, so their premiums will help to pay the bills of the ones that have need for medical care. It's not that way with prescription drug benefits. So they say it won't work.

Our proposal is different. It gives the money directly to the seniors so they can purchase their own prescription drugs. Now the big drug companies are opposed to what we're talking about. And why is that?

Today, people in different circumstances pay different prices for the same prescription drugs. You know what I'm talking about? You can go to other countries, you can go to a veterinarians office and get a much cheaper price. And the highest price of all is charged to seniors.

And what the big drug companies are worried about is that if we provide a prescription drug benefit under the Medicare program that Medicare will start negotiating for a better price, and that that will drive the price down for seniors, and that will hurt some of the profits for the big drug companies.

Well, they have by far the highest profits of any industry in America. I'm not against profits, but I am against the kind of situation that is faced by seniors today. I talked to a women in Missouri on the other side of the state with Dick Gephardt last month sometime. She told me how she had to pay over half of -- about half of the money she gets from her Social Security check for prescription medicine. And she doesn't have enough money leftover for food and for clothing and shelter.

I talked to a woman in New Hampshire who told me how she takes her pill bottles out of the medicine cabinet and puts them on the breakfast table and goes through them, and counts pills, and counts pennies at the same time.

And then she unilaterally makes decisions to cutout some of her medicine because she can't afford all of it, and she doesn't consult with her doctor in the process.

We need to give seniors help in order to stop that kind of situation. We need to intervene, to give them some help with prescription drugs.

So whether it's Social Security or Medicare, or prescription drug benefits being added to Medicare, these three health care issues effecting seniors are at the center of the debate in our nation over which direction we're going to take. Now, when I talk at the Democratic convention...

WATERS: Al Gore, in Independence, Missouri today, on this occasion of the 65th anniversary of Social Security, describing the differences between his proposal and the Republican proposal on drug benefits and the Medicare plan.

The Al Gore plan proposing a 10-year $255 billion to include those prescription drugs and free coverage to low income recipients.

We'll be hearing more about that in the days and weeks to come. Health care one of the major issue that will be discussed at this Republican National Convention -- this Democratic National Convention, excuse me.



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