Bush's 2000 Medicare Pledge

As President Bush prepares to accept the Republican nomination Thursday night, CBS News looks at his campaign promises from four years ago. Mika Brzezinski assesses how he performed on his pledge to reform the nation's Medicare system.

Between them, 73-year-old Gladys Cole and 76-year-old Judith Keiler have prescriptions for eight medications. Both are trying to keep up with soaring drug costs and both hope Medicare can help.

"I found prescription drugs to be very expensive,'' says Cole

"I think the pricing is obscene," says Keiler.

Four years ago at the last GOP convention, then Gov. Bush promised big changes for Medicare.

"We will set it on firm financial ground and make prescription drugs available and affordable for every senior who needs them,'' Bush said in 2000.

Last year, in the largest overhaul of Medicare ever, President Bush signed into law drug discounts --up to 60% -- for most seniors and people with disabilities. Lower income seniors with no other drug coverage, like Gladys Cole, reap the biggest benefits.

At the pharmacy, she gets the good news that her total is $7.77. "Wonderful,'' sayd Cole.

So far, out of the 41 million Medicare recipients -- only 4 million have enrolled in the prescription card program. Many say the new plan -- with 40 different options --- is far too confusing and not enough of a money saver especially for the middle class who may already have other drug coverage.

"It just doesn't work for me. I'm in a better situation where I am right now,'' says Keiler.

What about Mr. Bush's other promise to put Medicare on solid financial ground? On that score, some conservatives have been the president's sharpest critics.

"While he delivered on his promise to provide prescription drugs for senior citizens, one problem is that the cost of this thing is going to explode,'' says Robert Moffit, with the Heritage Foundation.

It already did last January, when the Bush administration announced the price tag of the overhaul was actually 33% more -- $534 billion, instead of the original $395 billlion, over 10 years. It was a revelation that infuriated members of both parties.

"I am a Democrat, but as far as I'm concerned, this bill is a wonderful thing,'' says Cole.

Wonderful, perhaps, until it's time to pay up. If left as is, Medicare could go broke by 2019.

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.