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June 30, 1999

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“If we were creating Medicare today, it would be unthinkable to deny coverage for prescription drugs.”
President Bill Clinton
June 30, 1999

Today, in Chicago, President Clinton met with seniors to discuss the importance of modernizing Medicare to include benefits for prescription drugs and preventive care services. The President heard firsthand from seniors about the difficult choices and financial burdens they face when they do not have prescription drug coverage.

Medicare's Benefits Need to Be Modernized. In order for Medicare to provide high-quality health care to America's growing number of seniors, its benefits package must be updated to address the following concerns:

  • Nearly 15 millions beneficiaries have no prescription drug coverage, and millions more are at risk of losing coverage or have inadequate, expensive coverage;
  • Availability of prescription drug coverage for seniors is declining, while its cost is rising;
  • Medicare managed-care plans have limited coverage and are inaccessible to millions of the elderly;
  • Opposition to the President's plan for a prescription drug benefit resembles the opposition to the enactment of Medicare. Although 56% of the elderly had insurance before Medicare, this coverage was expensive, inadequate, and unreliable – much like drug coverage today. Medicare would not have been created if this “coverage” was considered acceptable.

Adding a New Prescription Drug Benefit. The President's plan includes a voluntary Medicare drug benefit that would offer beneficiaries access to prescription drug coverage beginning in 2002. This new benefit would provide:

  • Reliable, affordable coverage to all beneficiaries;
  • Protection for low-income beneficiaries; and
  • Private management of benefits.

Improving Benefits for Preventive Services. The President's proposal would help educate older Americans on preventive health services and make those services more affordable. The plan would:

  • Eliminate co-payments and deductibles for all preventive services covered by Medicare, including colorectal cancer screening, bone mass measurements, pelvic exams, prostate cancer screening, and mammographies;
  • Launch a 3-year trial project to provide smoking cessation services to Medicare beneficiaries; and
  • Create a new nationwide health promotion education campaign for all Americans over the age of 50.

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