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Challenging Congress to Act Now On Health Care Priorities - June 22, 2000

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Thursday, June 22, 2000

June 22, 2000

"Those of us in public life should be doing everything we can to work together, whether we're working to provide affordable prescription drug coverage, or to demand accountability for the health care costs of tobacco."

President Bill Clinton
Thursday, June 22, 2000

Today, President Clinton challenged Congress to place the nation's health care interests ahead of special interests by providing an affordable Medicare prescription drug benefit and holding tobacco companies accountable for the cost of smoking-related illnesses. The President expressed his disappointment with the House Ways and Means Committee vote last night for a drug benefit that would be neither affordable nor meaningful for the nation's Medicare beneficiaries. He urged the full House to reject this vote and pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit that is affordable, available, and optional for all Medicare beneficiaries. The President also commended the House for adopting the Waxman amendment allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to help finance the Department of Justice tobacco litigation. He urged the House to take the next step and adopt an amendment permitting the Justice Department to accept this funding so they can proceed with the litigation, which could provide billions of dollars to improve the medical care of not only veterans, but all Americans.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS PASS FLAWED PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT.Last night, on a straight party-line vote, the House Ways and Means Committee passed a private-insurance drug benefit that:

  • Does not ensure that all Medicare beneficiaries will have access to an affordable prescription drug benefit;
  • Provides a private insurance benefit - not a Medicare benefit - meaning beneficiaries would pay expensive premiums to private Medigap plans rather than to Medicare for an affordable option;
  • Fails to assure the availability or stability of drug coverage options;
  • Limits choice of drugs and pharmacies;
  • Serves the pharmaceutical industry's interests much more than those of senior citizens and people with disabilities;
  • The insurance industry itself has consistently stated won't work.

The President urged the House leadership to change their proposal to ensure that it is voluntary, accessible to all beneficiaries, designed to provide meaningful protection and bargaining power for seniors, affordable for all beneficiaries and the program, and administered using competitive purchasing techniques.

REPUBLICANS REJECT NEEDED HEALTH CARE PROVIDER RESTORATIONS. Last night, the Republicans rejected the President's proposed investment of $21 billion over five years for a Medicare and Medicaid Health Care Provider Payment Restoration initiative designed to provide adequate reimbursement to hospitals, teaching facilities, nursing homes, and other providers to ensure that patients have continued access to high-quality care.

URGING CONGRESS TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH, NOT BIG TOBACCO. Each year, more than 400,000 Americans are killed by tobacco-related diseases. The cost to the federal government is staggering, and includes more than $20 billion in federal payments under Medicare and other programs. Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs alone spends more than $1 billion on smoking-related illnesses. This week, the House passed an amendment allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to devote funds to help finance the Justice Department litigation against tobacco companies. This litigation would recover billions of dollars in tobacco-related health care costs and make the tobacco industry answer to the taxpayers in court for their actions. Today, the President urged Congress to take the next step by adopting an amendment which would permit the Justice Department to accept these funds, and allow the legal responsibility of the tobacco companies to be decided by the judicial process, not the political process.

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