A Revolution In Medicare

In Tucson Thursday, the president called for a revolution in Medicare, not only to save the insurance program, but also to expand it.

"I would also like to see us begin to work into Medicare a prescription drug benefit, which I think would dramatically improve it," he said.

Medicare's lack of prescription coverage is a quiet crisis. Peggy Halford can't afford all the medicine she needs to breathe. "You get to the point where, after trying to fight the system, you don't care anymore," she said. "Its not so much you don't care, but you also feel a lot of being ashamed. That takes a lot out of you," she told CBS News Correspondent Scott Pelley.

When asked if her grown children could provide some financial support to cover her medication expenses Halford replied, "My children have children going to college. I refuse to take my grandchildren's college money. Both husbands and wives work. I refuse to take their money to support me. Their lives to me are more important than mine."

Still, drug coverage would cost billions, considering how quickly Medicare is growing. In 20 years it will claim 25 percent of the entire federal budget. With drug coverage, it could be as high as 30 percent.

"If Medicare paid for my drugs, it would leave funds for me at the time when I'm going to need more help to come in and do things for me," Halford said.

A bipartisan commission is working on a plan to convert most of Medicare into managed care, HMO style. There is disagreement on nearly all details but one: Medicare must be completely redesigned to survive in the next century.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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