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Addressing The Challenges Facing Rural Seniors Who Need Prescription Drugs

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Tuesday, June 13, 2000


"Today's report on the special needs of rural seniors makes it clear that we need a benefit that's available for all older Americans."

President Bill Clinton
Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Today, at the White House, President Clinton released a new report on the special challenges faced by the over 9 million Medicare beneficiaries in rural communities who need life-saving prescription drugs. The report shows that rural beneficiaries tend to have a greater need for prescription drug coverage but have fewer coverage options. Their incomes are lower, access to pharmacies is more limited, out-of-pocket spending is higher, and the available private prescription drug coverage options are severely limited and extremely expensive. The President expressed concern about the Republican proposal that builds on the flawed Medigap plan, and urged Congress to work with him to design a meaningful Medicare prescription drug benefit that provides an affordable, dependable, coverage option available to all beneficiaries.

Highlighting the Greater Need For Prescription Drug Coverage By Rural Beneficiaries. Rural Medicare beneficiaries, who represent nearly one-fourth of the Medicare population, have lower incomes, more limited access to pharmacies, and higher out-of-pocket expenditures than their urban counterparts. Key findings of today's report by the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council include:

  • Rural beneficiaries pay more for prescription drugs than urban beneficiaries, and are more likely to go without needed medication because of cost concerns;
  • Rural elderly are more likely to have high out-of-pocket spending than urban seniors, even among the chronically ill;
  • Rural Medicare beneficiaries are 50 percent less likely to have any prescription drug coverage;
  • In rural America, most beneficiaries who lack prescription drug coverage are middle income – they would not qualify for direct premium assistance in plans that subsidize low-income beneficiaries, but do not have enough income to afford private insurance;
  • Rural beneficiaries are about one-third less likely to have retiree health insurance;
  • Less than 1 percent of rural beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare managed care with a prescription drug benefit;
  • Due to lack of alternatives and the critical need for drug coverage, rural seniors disproportionately purchase Medigap; and
  • Premiums for Medigap for rural beneficiaries are high and increase with age.

Urging Congress to Pass a Meaningful Medicare Drug Benefit. The President raised concerns about the Republican proposal to use a flawed Medigap-like model that would not work for all Medicare beneficiaries. Instead, he called on Congress to work with him on a plan that is designed to cover people – not provide political cover – and provides meaningful drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. The President's plan is:

  • Voluntary;
  • Accessible to all beneficiaries;
  • Designed to give beneficiaries meaningful protection and bargaining power;
  • Affordable to all beneficiaries and the program; and
  • Consistent with a larger plan to strengthen and modernize Medicare.

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