Radio Address of the President
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                      July 8, 2000

                      RADIO ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT
                               TO THE NATION

                                     The Oval Office

10:06 A.M. EDT

          THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  With fewer than 40 days left on
the congressional calendar, I'd like to speak with you about how we can
seize this moment to modernize Medicare and help all seniors afford the
prescription drugs that can lengthen and enrich their lives.

          It was just 35 years ago this month that President Johnson signed
the Medicare Act into law.  He spoke of Medicare joining Social Security as
a cornerstone of our society upon which the hopes and dreams of generations
of seniors could securely rest.  He directed our nation, in his words,
"never to ignore those who suffer untended, in a land that is bursting with

          Over these past 35 years, Medicare has proven to be a remarkable
success.  Before Medicare, nearly half of America's seniors didn't have any
health coverage at all.  Serious illness often wiped away in an instant all
the savings families had put away over a lifetime of hard work.  Today,
nearly every senior has the security of basic health coverage.  And since
that time, elderly poverty has fallen dramatically, and Americans over 65
have the highest life expectancy anywhere in the world.

          Yet, for all its successes, Medicare has not fully kept pace with
the miracles of modern medicine.  The original Medicare law was written at
a time when patients' lives were more often saved by scalpels and
pharmaceuticals; when many of the life-saving drugs we now routinely use
did not even exist.

          No one creating Medicare today would even consider excluding
coverage for prescription drugs.  That's why we've proposed a comprehensive
plan to provide voluntary prescription drug benefits that are affordable
for all seniors -- a plan that ensures that all Medicare beneficiaries, no
matter where they live or how sick they are, will pay the same affordable
premiums; a plan that covers catastrophic drug costs; a plan that is part
of an overall effort to strengthen and modernize Medicare so we won't have
to ask our children to shoulder our burden when we retire.

          Across the nation we've seen a great outpouring of support for
adding such a prescription drug benefit.  And yet I'm increasingly
concerned that efforts in Congress are bogging down.  One reason for this
is clear:  the pharmaceutical industry has unleashed a shameless,
scorched-earth campaign to thwart the will of the American people.

          And industry-funded group calling itself Citizens for Better
Medicare -- can you believe that? -- has flooded the airwaves with negative
ads against our plan.  Just this week we learned that the drug companies
have enlisted nearly 300 hard-gun lobbyists -- more than one for ever two
members of Congress -- and paid them to do everything in their power to
block all meaningful reforms.  All told, the drug industry has spent a
staggering $236 million on its lobbying efforts.  These millions would be a
lot better spent on research for new medicines.

          The pharmaceutical industry is pushing Congress to adopt a
private insurance program, rather than a Medicare prescription drug
benefit.  Insurers, themselves, however, say this won't work, and they
won't participate.  Just today we learned that the state of Nevada is using
a private insurance model that's very similar to the plan passed by the
Republican majority in the House of Representatives last week.  Not
surprisingly, it has not found one single qualified insurer willing to

          You have to give it to the insurance companies; they have been
honest here.  They have said that the Republican plan won't work.  It's a
plan designed for those who make the drugs, not for the seniors who need to
take them.

          So today I call on Congress to reject that approach and the
reckless campaign of narrow special interests, and act together in the
public interest.  We need a prescription drug benefit that works for
seniors and people with disabilities, not just for the pharmaceutical

          A few weeks ago I put forth a good-faith proposal to do just
that.  I said that if Congress will agree to pass a plan that offers
affordable Medicare prescription drug coverage to all seniors and people
with disabilities, while protecting our hard-won fiscal discipline, then I
will sign a marriage penalty relief law of equal size.

          At this time of year it's natural that we begin to think ahead to
Election Day, but let's keep in mind, as well, the spirit of common purpose
we just celebrated on Independence Day.  That's the spirit I hope members
of Congress will bring back to our Nation's Capital when they return to
work Monday.  At a time when America is once again bursting with abundance,
there shouldn't be a limit on what we can achieve.

          Thanks for listening.

                            END     10:11 A.M. EDT

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