Monday, September 18, 2000

What candidates propose on Medicare

        AL GORE:

        “I will fight for a prescription drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare. It's just wrong for seniors to have to choose between food and medicine while the big drug companies run up record profits”

        Proposal: Any senior earning up to $11,200 (135 percent of the poverty level) would get all their prescription drugs covered at no cost to them.

        The government would pay a portion of the premiums for seniors earning $11,200 to $12,450 a year.

        For higher-income seniors, the plan would charge premiums of $25 a month in the first year, rising over 10 years to more than $40 a month.

        The plan would cover 50 percent of drug costs with a maximum annual cap of $1,000 the first year (cap would rise to $2,500 by the 10th year). However, the most seniors would pay out-of-pocket for drugs is $4,000 a year, with the government covering full costs beyond that.

        To enroll, seniors would get a one-time opportunity when they become eligible for Medicare. The only other way to join the program would be if an employer discontinued a retiree drug plan.

        Estimated cost: $253 billion over 10 years.

        GEORGE W. BUSH:

        “By history and choice, our nation makes a promise: we will honor our fathers and mothers by providing quality health insurance to every senior citizen. Keeping the promise of Medicare and expanding it to include prescription drug coverage will be a priority of my administration.”

        Proposal: Rather than adding a benefit to Medicare itself, Mr. Bush would give seniors the option to buy drug plans from private insurers, with subsidies for the lowest-income seniors.

        Seniors earning less than $11,300 a year would get full drug coverage at no cost. Beyond that level, a declining amount of subsidy would be available as senior incomes increase.

        After meeting a $250 deductible, the plan would pay 50 percent of drug costs up to $2,100 a year. However, no senior would have to pay more than $6,000 per year.

        The premiums private insurers would charge has not been specified. The Bush plan places no restrictions on when seniors can sign up and would make its full level of benefits available the first year.

        Estimated cost: $159 billion.

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- What candidates propose on Medicare
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