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July 27, 1999

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“A strong and modern Medicare system is absolutely vital to the health and future of America's women. It is important that we deal with the Medicare challenge now, while we have the funds and the prosperity to do so.”

President Bill Clinton
June 27, 1999

Today at the White House, President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton joined the Older Women's League in releasing a report entitled, “Medicare: Why Women Care.” The report documents why strengthening and modernizing Medicare is particularly important to women of all ages. Also today, Vice President Gore joined the Democratic leadership in releasing new data on the challenges that Medicare beneficiaries in rural America face in accessing prescription drug coverage.

Unveiling a New Report by the Older Women's League. The report released today by President and Mrs. Clinton and the Older Women's League shows that:

  • Nearly 60 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are women, and this proportion rises with age;
  • In the next 30 years, the number of Medicare beneficiaries will double, and most will be women;
  • Women have greater health care needs and lower incomes than men, which result in higher out-of-pocket health spending;
  • Total prescription drug spending for women on Medicare averages about $1,200 – nearly 20 percent more than that of men;
  • Like all beneficiaries, about three-fourths of women have coverage that is inadequate, unstable, and declining;
  • About 7.3 million women on Medicare, half of whom are middle income, have no coverage to help pay for their prescription drug costs;
  • Medicare's critical preventive services are underused by older women; and
  • New revenue is necessary to ensure that the Medicare trust fund is solvent when women in the baby boom generation retire.

Addressing the Needs of Rural Medicare Beneficiaries. Vice President Gore and the Democratic leadership released new data on the challenges that Medicare beneficiaries in rural America face in accessing prescription drug coverage. The Vice President pointed out that 34% – over one in three – of all beneficiaries without prescription drug coverage live in rural areas. In fact, nearly half of all rural beneficiaries lack drug coverage, compared to 34 percent of all beneficiaries. The data also show that lack of access by rural beneficiaries to prescription drug coverage occurs throughout the income spectrum: 45 percent of rural beneficiaries with incomes above $50,000 lack prescription drug coverage, compared to 25 percent of all beneficiaries.

Highlighting the Importance of Investing in Medicare. Today, the President, the First Lady, and the Vice President emphasized the importance of taking advantage of this historic opportunity to dedicate a significant portion of the surplus to strengthening and modernizing Medicare for the next quarter century. They stressed that spending all of the budget surplus on a large tax cut, as some in Congress are proposing, would leave Medicare and Social Security vulnerable, and lead to severe cuts in critical programs like education, defense, medical research, health care, and the environment.


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