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The Voters Respond: A CNN and 'TIME' Town Meeting -- Part II

Aired October 3, 2000 - 11:03 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: From the University of Tampa in Florida, "The Voters Respond: A CNN and 'TIME' Town Meeting." Here now, Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our dialogue with undecided voters that we've gathered here at the University of Tampa, and so far we've gotten some reaction. It doesn't look like a lot of people have yet made up their minds.

Have you made up your mind yet? Tell us who you are.

DAVE LE GRAND (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm Dave Le Grand of Plant City, Florida, and no, I haven't made up my mind 100 percent yet. Although I feel that I know more about both of the candidates, I wasn't exactly happy with their coverage as far as HMO, HMO reform, the issues of choices and opportunities to go out of network for care, things of that nature.

I have issues myself with them in that I've had doctors prescribe medications for me, and then, in fact, the HMO has determined that that is not the correct medication for me. I just feel that that's something I'd like to hear more about, or would have liked to hear more about tonight.

BLITZER: So you're not leaning one way or another right now?

LE GRAND: Not yet.

BLITZER: You still want to hear more.

One of the big issues that we did hear a lot of discussion about tonight was prescription drug benefits for seniors. I want to run through very briefly on our screen, show you, show our audience some of the differences between the Bush plan and the Gore plan.

As far as George W. Bush's plan, as you can see, it would require all plans to offer a prescription drug coverage option, to pay 100 percent of premiums for the poorest seniors, 25 percent of drug premiums for all seniors. It would provide $48 billion in short-term assistance for low-income seniors. But he would cap out or maximize out-of-pocket medical and drug costs at $6,000 a year.

Now, let's take a look at Al Gore's plan. He would add a $253 billion prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Prescription drugs for seniors would go through Medicare. It would pay 100 percent of drug premiums and the co-pays for the poorest seniors, once again, would pay half or 50 percents of the drug costs up to $5,000 a year for all seniors. And he would maximize or cap out-of-pocket drug costs at $4,000.

What do you think about those two plans? Tell us your name, too.

MARJORIE SALAMI (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Marjorie Salami. I'm from Palm Harbor, Florida.

I actually -- the thing that I thought the most about was with Gore, you have more of a choice, which is a current issue today with all of the HMOs, that you don't get a choice in your physicians, yet physicians don't get a choice in the medicines that they prescribe you. I'd have to learn more about Governor Bush's. I wasn't really clear how he intends to use HMO and private industry to help pay for prescription drugs.

BLITZER: You like the fact that the prescription drug benefits would go through Medicare and that you could pick your own drugstore, you could pick your own doctor to help prescribe those drugs?

SALAMI: Yes. The only thing is that time is of -- is important. I mean, we're talking about our senior citizens here. They can't afford to wait eight years. We're talking about people who are 75, who are 85.

I'm actually in pharmaceutical sales, and when I leave the physician's office, many times patients will follow me and tell me tell, tell your drug company I cannot afford their drug. Many of these patients are on at least four different agents that would probably cost them around $200 a month to pay for. And so they do actually have to make conscious decisions on whether, do I grocery shop or do I pay for my drugs?

BLITZER: And before we go to Yolanda (ph), who's siting next to you, did you decide tonight who you're going to vote for based on what you heard?

SALAMI: I was actually surprised at well Bush did, actually, and I do want to listen to the other debates. But I am leaning more toward Bush at this point.

BLITZER: All right. Yolanda, what do you think?

YOLANDA CLIFTON (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: I -- personally, my husband just lost his job of 14 years -- he was laid off -- so we have to pay COBRA, which is $700 a month. And I had a premature baby a few months ago, and we have to pay $12,000 for one of the drugs she has to take for the next six months. I mean, it's bankrupting us.

You know, so I -- I was more clear on Gore's plan, but still, I mean, there has to be some kind of relief. People shouldn't have to go bankrupt because you lose a job, you know, and you have to pay COBRA and health care on your own. It's ridiculous.

BLITZER: How are you coping with your husband out of work? CLIFTON: It's hard. I don't know how we've done it so far, I really don't. I mean, every month is me deciding to pay the house payment first or the COBRA.

BLITZER: And how's your son doing?

CLIFTON: My little girl, Allie (ph), and she's beautiful, she's doing great. You know, but it's hard, because it takes the joy out of what happened by all this hardship, and we shouldn't have to go through that.

BLITZER: So did you decide tonight who you're going to vote for based on this debate?

CLIFTON: I'm still not -- no, I still haven't. I mean, I'm leaning a little bit more toward Gore because of the choices he's giving us, you know, and the prescription drug thing. But it's still -- I'm still undecided.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on. We have another undecided -- are you still an undecided voter?

VALERIE POWELL (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, I'm Valerie Powell. I'm from Largo. I have decided. I made a decision this evening: I've been a voting Republican for my entire voting life, and I have decided to change parties.


POWELL: I've heard the things that I needed to hear, that family takes precedence, that the money that's spent will go to back into our local schools and to our teachers, giving them the incentives to give the tools to our children that we need to educate them. They are our future.

I also heard that I believe our seniors deserve to have Medicare benefit changes now, not four to five years from now.

BLITZER: And so those issues have convinced you now to vote for Al Gore?

POWELL: Exactly. His closing statement, when he acknowledged that he is the president of the United States of America but he represents the people of the United States of America, and that's what I needed to hear.

BLITZER: Did -- was it the prescription drugs, or was it the education? Was it the tax cuts? Was it the overall tone? The presence? Specifically, what pushed you over the line?

POWELL: It went with the Medicare prescription. It went with the tax cuts. I am the sandwich generation in my household. Every aspect and issue that was discussed tonight, including the military issues, do affect my direct household. And he managed to say what I needed to hear. I was confident in his -- in his speech, in his tone. He was professional. He wasn't derogatory. He made his statements clear and well-known what his proposals are and what he plans on doing.

BLITZER: You know, and you're sitting right next to a woman. I don't know if you want to tell us how you felt about this. But you're a senior, and obviously a lot of what these two candidates said today was directed toward you and your contemporaries. Please give her the microphone.

And tell us your name.

KATIE SNOOK (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Katie Snook and I'm from Tampa.

BLITZER: Move the microphone a little close to your mouth. Thank you.

SNOOK: And I have not decided yet. I would like to listen more. The only thing: I lean a little bit more towards Gore.

BLITZER: Tell us why.

SNOOK: Because I liked the way he presented himself. And he made many things clearer to me than Bush did, although I have never been a Democrat.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to get back. And we're going to talk a little bit more. We have a lot more to talk about, including education, which is going to be a big issue. It was an issue -- a big issue tonight. Dan Goodgame of "TIME" magazine is going to be joining us to give us some perspective on what these two presidential candidates offered.

And we're also going to have the first flash poll based on tonight's debate between Al Gore and George W. Bush. We'll be back at this town meeting at the University of Tampa right after this.




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