Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi: Bush Proposal Will Weaken Medicare by Limiting Choice

January 29, 2003

Washington, D.C. -- At a news conference this afternoon with Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, Washington State Gov. Gary Locke, and Shirley Lupton, a senior citizen from Maryland, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement about President Bush's proposal for a new prescription drug plan for seniors. The President announced the proposal last night in his State of the Union Address and stumped for it today in Michigan.

"In his speech in Michigan this afternoon, President Bush stood in front of a backdrop that read 'Strengthening Medicare.' Yet his proposal will do just the opposite -- it will weaken Medicare by limiting choice.

"As a member of the House health subcommittee that funds the National Institutes of Health, I know full well the power of modern drugs and how they can improve lives. It’s truly miraculous.

"Access to prescription drugs is crucial. Modern pharmaceuticals can often eliminate the need for surgery and hospital care, but prices for the 50 most prescribed drugs for senior citizens have been going up, on average, at twice the rate of inflation over the past six years.

"Democrats urged President Bush and Congressional Republicans to set aside a portion of the surplus for a meaningful prescription drug benefit under Medicare. Instead, two years ago, the Republicans made a $1.7 trillion tax cut their priority and drained the surplus before providing a prescription drug benefit for seniors.

"Now the Administration wants to spend another trillion dollars on tax cuts - money that should be used for a comprehensive prescription drug benefit through Medicare.

"President Bush claims to be offering that benefit. But his proposal is really a benefit for HMOs, not seniors. It essentially will force seniors out of traditional Medicare -- the system that seniors have trusted for nearly 40 years -- into private sector HMOs to obtain drug coverage.

"In his State of the Union Address last night, President Bush emphasized the importance 'choice.' I agree. Choice is important.

"However, under the President’s plan, our senior citizens may no longer have the choice to go to their own doctor. Seniors may no longer have the choice to fill their prescriptions at their local drug stores. This is particularly harmful to seniors who live in our rural communities.

"Medicare has been so successful because it does provide seniors with the most important choices of all - which doctor they want to see, where they want to get their care, and what care they and their doctor decide they need. The President’s privatization plan will limit all of those important choices.

"The debate over prescription drug coverage comes down to a question of values. President Bush and Congressional Republicans have continually chosen to place a greater value on tax cuts for the wealthy than prescription drugs for seniors.

"For the $674 billion the President wants to spend on tax cuts for the wealthy, we could afford to provide prescription drug coverage for all of America's seniors for the next 10 years. What a remarkable difference between Republican and Democratic priorities.

"The senior population will nearly double over the next 25 years. This group will spend almost a quarter of their lives on Medicare. We must act now to ensure that older Americans have access to the medicines that will enable them to lead healthy, active lives."


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