Sunday, February 29, 2004

Portman explains Medicare drug benefit



By Anna Michael
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
Rep. Rob Portman signs a book by George H.W. Bush for Janet Longacre of Lebanon at a town hall meeting Saturday at the Lebanon Municipal Building.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/ERNEST COLEMAN

Using a blackboard and a thick piece of chalk, Rep. Rob Portman of Terrace Park broke down the elements of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 Saturday morning at the Lebanon Municipal Building.

At the public forum, Portman addressed senior citizens' concerns about the rising costs of prescription drugs.

"Seniors ironically have the worst situation. Because they go up as individuals, they pay the highest prices," Portman said. "So the idea is to get these millions of seniors around the country together in one plan with one card. That's why you get the discount."

Before the question-and-answer session began, Portman also focused on the federal budget and the national deficit.

"Bottom line for me is, if we are going to get the deficit under control we have to restrain our spending more," Portman said. "So this budget is an opportunity to do that."

No one in the audience of about 50 people asked about rumors that Portman could be considered as a replacement for Vice President Dick Cheney if Cheney decides not to run again. Afterward, however, Portman said he thinks Cheney will be President Bush's right-hand man.

"I believe Dick Cheney will be the running mate to George W. Bush," Portman said. "(Bush) trusts Cheney and he has incredible experience."

The majority of audience questions were about Iraq, Medicare and the budget. Portman fielded concerns about weapons of mass destruction, oil and nation building in Iraq. He said June 30 would stay as the day of transition from U.S. to Iraqi control. Regarding the primary election Tuesday, Portman said he believes Democratic Sen. John Kerry will win.

However, Portman thinks Bush will take Ohio in the "big contest."

"He will win this time because he has done most of the things Ohioans expect" regarding terrorism and the economy, Portman said.

After the meeting, 18-year Lebanon resident Jean Voelkel said Portman "seems to have a good head on his shoulders, and he appears to do a good job reasoning things out." She said she came to listen and gain information that is not readily available.

And that's what Portman says he hopes to provide at public forums.

"I love town meetings because I like to hear what people have to say," he said. "And part of it is trying to cut through the back-and-forth in a political year."

E-mail amichael@enquirer.com




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