In 63 days the people of United States will elect a new president, and healthcare is now one of the top concerns among voters. Republican George W. Bush, under attack for being too slow and vague, today gave details of his plan for shoring up Medicare and for helping older Americans pay for prescription drugs.
The Gore camp immediately branded it "inadequate."
CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports what Bush is offering--and what he is not.
"These are cruel choices some seniors face: heat or medicine, food or pills. In a wealthy nation, this is a scandal. In a compassionate nation, it is a call to action," says Bush.
He says his plan would cost $158 billion. That's $100 billion less than Al Gore's plan, and Bush claims his would do more. It would offer seniors choices, including new private plans covering prescription drugs, and cover the full cost of premiums for the poorest seniors. And for any elderly American faced with catastrophic medical costs, the Bush plan would pay everything over $6,000 a year.
"And this plan will help seniors much sooner than anything proposed by Vice President Gore," Bush says.
With prescription drug spending rising fast and Baby Boomers aging, this is a hot issue and a defining one for the campaign. While Al Gore proposes an expanded government plan, Bush turns to the private sector.
One analyst says the basic difference between the two plans is that Gore's offers people few choices, but is likely to keep prices lower. The Bush plan?
Marilyn Moon of the Urban Institute says, "That sounds pretty good in terms of it allows people to have choice, but the problem is that it makes the prescription drug option very expensive and potentially prohibitively expensive over time."
Now voters have a real choice between the Democrat's upgraded Medicare package and the Republican's private plans. But no matter who wins, it seems America's seniors might finally get some relief from spiraling prescription drug costs.
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