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April 26, 2000 (Washington) -- President Clinton seized on a new report about rising drug costs for seniors as a strong sign that it's time for Congress to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. The analysis shows that the 50 drugs used most frequently by the elderly are increasing in cost at nearly double the rate of general inflation.

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"Seniors living on fixed incomes simply can't cope with these price increases forever. That's why we should take action to help them and do it now," said the president at the White House Wednesday. Accompanied by Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the senate minority leader, and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), President Clinton noted during the event that half of American seniors have no prescription drug coverage.

As the elections draw nearer, both Republicans and Democrats are attempting to position themselves as champions of expanding Medicare to include prescription drug coverage. The report, "Still Rising: Drug Price Increases for Seniors 1999-2000," is the latest effort to shape the debate.

President Clinton's $196 billion, 10-year proposal would cover all seniors for half of their drug expenses up to $2,000 initially, then gradually up to a $5,000 maximum. Those who want to join the voluntary program would pay a monthly premium. Daschle says there are plans to introduce a version of a Medicare prescription drug benefit in the Senate soon. 041b061a72


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