Good morning. Medicare is one of the most important and compassionate programs
in American history. It provides medical care to the elderly and people with
disabilities. It is a source of security and dignity for tens of millions of
Americans. The health of America's senior citizens is one of America's most
sacred obligations, and it is a commitment my administration will fully honor.
Yet we need to do more to fulfill Medicare's promise. Seniors should have affordable
coverage choices that meet their needs. But Medicare does not do that. Many
seniors need prescription drug coverage. Medicare does not provide it. And because
Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, seniors often pay the highest prices
for drugs out of their own pockets, forcing too many of our seniors to chose
between paying for pills or paying their bills.
Medicare is an essential program, but it has not kept pace with the advances
in medicine. The Medicare program is costly for seniors and too often does not
provide the choices that our seniors need, and our seniors want. So Medicare
must be strengthened, and it must be improved.
Congress is working hard to pass legislation that will help many seniors with
their drug costs, and guarantee all senior citizens prescription drug coverage.
I strongly support these efforts.
At the same time, I am working for a Medicare endorsed drug card, that will
allow seniors to get lower prices from drug manufactures right away. And I'm
working for temporary assistance with drug costs for seniors with limited incomes,
even before the full prescription drug benefit becomes available a few years
Medicare also needs to give every senior affordable, up-to- date health insurance
options. Right now, more than 5 million Medicare members have access to valuable,
modern health insurance benefits and prescription drug coverage in Medicare
plus Choice plans.
These improved benefits, along with innovative treatments, probably saved Joe
Hotin's life. Mr. Hotin served in the Navy in World War II. He joined his Medicare
plus Choice in 1995. Because his health plan covers annual checkups, Joe's doctor
caught a spot and got it treated before it turned into life threatening cancer.
Many of these treatments and programs that can save and improve lives, and reduce
health care costs, are only available through Medicare's private plans. Unfortunately,
millions of Medicare members do not have the option to choose these benefits.
The federal government has long provided reliable coverage choices to all its
employees. But current law prevents private health plans from giving Medicare
enrollees the same choices. As a result, over 100 private plans have left Medicare,
and millions of seniors have lost the valuable additional benefits that private
We must act now to provide every Medicare member with more choices and more
savings. Medicare needs a fair system of competition, a system that encourages
additional benefits and options for better care at lower cost. Medicare is crucial
to elderly Americans. I urge members of both parties to work together to protect
and improve Medicare, and to maintain our moral commitment to millions of Americans.