Bush urges prescription drug coverage plan

by Andrew Pritchard

President George W. Bush praised private-sector innovation Thursday and urged seniors to use their purchasing power to lower drug prices. Bush made the comments in Minneapolis as he touted his plan to expand Medicare prescription drug coverage.

“If you want a health care system where the patient doesn’t suffer but in fact benefits, we must be innovative and encourage a healthy private sector,” Bush said. “When government determines which drugs are covered by health insurance … the invariable results are … delays and inflexible limits on coverage of new treatments.”

The president proposed a Medicare drug card for seniors that would allow them to purchase prescription drugs while Congress revised Medicare rules.

He also said he supported a House-passed bill to provide seniors immediate federal drug aid.

Both candidates for Senate criticized the House plan.

“It’s not the answer,” Republican Norm Coleman said. “You need to do more than the House plan.”

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., called the House plan “preposterous.”

“You’re not providing help for people,” he said. “They’re continuing to pay the premiums and they’re not getting any help.”

Dan Brown, protesting near the Target Center, said, “The Democrats’ proposal to actually strengthen Medicare is going to be the cheapest long-term alternative to getting drugs into the hands of needy seniors so that they don’t have to keep making the choice between food and necessary drugs to keep themselves alive.”

But University graduate David Knox, who attended the GOP Target Center rally, said, “It is not a right that we get prescription drugs. Why not get cell phones and cars?”

A recent Minnesota Department of Health study found nearly half of Minnesota seniors lack prescription drug coverage. Nationwide, other studies have shown 38 percent of Medicare beneficiaries lack drug coverage.

The president said more than half of seniors have private drug coverage and “government should act to strengthen these private health insurance options, not replace them.”

University graduate student Melissa Williams said Bush’s suggestions are “not enough until every American is able to get the health care that they need.”

– The Associated Press
contributed to this report.