Bush touts RX drug plan in MN

The President spoke to approximately 400 people Friday in Maple Grove.

Cati Vanden Breul

President George W. Bush visited the Twin Cities area Friday to introduce his new prescription-drug benefit plan to a group of approximately 400 people, most of whom were senior citizens.

His visit to the Maple Grove Community Center in Maple Grove, Minn., was the first of many scheduled to take place in the next few months as part of an education campaign to encourage seniors to sign up for the new plan, which will take effect Jan. 1.

“This bill provides seniors with better choices,” Bush said, speaking in front of approximately 45 seniors with seats on a raised stage behind him.

Seniors who sign up for the plan would see 95 percent of their prescription-drug costs paid for by the government after they spend $3,600, he said. The government would automatically pay 95 percent of the costs for low-income seniors with the plan.

It is the duty of all citizens to find a senior citizen, explain the plan and help them sign up, Bush said.

“There is no better way to help somebody, no better way to make someone’s life better, than to find a senior to tell them what’s available,” he said.

Beth Virnig, a University School of Public Health professor, said participating in outreach efforts such as this one is important for students.

“Many of us have parents or grandparents who could take part in this. It’s a chance to get involved,” Virnig said.

Many seniors who are eligible for Medicare and other aid programs do not participate, she said.

“The statistics are horrifying when you look at the percentage of elderly who are eligible for these programs who do not take advantage of them,” Virnig said.

But students should also become informed about the plan and decide if it is really something new or just something repackaged, she said.

Virnig said students should ask, “Did we really get anything out of this, or is this just relabeling what we always had?”

University alumna Carolynne Darling, a 1974 graduate who stopped in Maple Grove to watch the president’s motorcade go by after his speech, said she is worried about how she is going to afford health care in the future.

“You want to know someone is looking out for you. I’m concerned about myself and what’s going to happen to me,” Darling said.

When the time comes, she said, she plans to look at what programs are available and make a decision.

Seniors can sign up for the new prescription-drug plan starting in November.