President Bill Clinton accused the American pharmaceutical industry on Saturday of trying to sabotage his proposed prescription drug plan with a negative ad campaign and an army of lobbyists.
"The pharmaceutical industry has unleashed a shameless, scorched-earth campaign to thwart the will of the American people," President Clinton said in his weekly radio address.
CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller reports Democrats and Republicans are battling over adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, one of the biggest changes to the health program for the aged since its creation in 1965.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on June 28 narrowly passed a Republican-drafted plan that relies more on the private insurance industry to sell drug policies, backed by government subsidies and incentives.
It would cost $40 billion over five years.
President Clinton's plan offers the benefit in a more traditional way within the Medicare system itself. It would cost $253 billion over 10 years.
While the conflicting legislative proposals are being debated on Capitol Hill, an industry-funded organization calling itself Citizens for Better Medicare has been running an ad campaign against the Clinton alternative.
In addition, President Clinton said, "Just this week we learned that the drug companies have enlisted nearly 300 hired gun lobbyists, more than one for every two members of Congress, and paid them to do everything in their power to block all meaningful reforms."
"All told the drug industry has spent a staggering $236 million on its lobbying efforts. These millions would be a lot better spent on research for new medicine," said Mr. Clinton.
Citizens for Better Medicare did not immediately return a telephone message seeking reaction to President Clinton's charges.
President Clinton said the pharmaceutical industry is pushing Congress to adopt the Republican plan, and that the insurance industry would reject the plan because it "won't work and they won't participate."
"Just today we learned that the state of Nevada is using a private insurance model that's very similar to the plan passed by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives last week. Not surprisingly it has not found one single qualified insurer willing to participate," he said.
"You have to give it to the insurance companies, they have been honest here. They have said that the Republican plan won't work. It's a plan designed for those who make the drugs, not for the seniors who need to take them," he said.
As members of Congress prepare to return from their July 4 recess, Clinton renewed his offer to Republicans to accept his drug plan in exchange for him agreeing to their $250 billion reduction in the so-called "marriage penalty," the tax paid by two-income couples. So far Republicans are balking.
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