For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 7, 2003
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, the House and Senate are working on one of the most important issues facing Congress: improving Medicare to offer prescription drug coverage to American seniors. And on Wednesday, I will travel to Chicago and talk about our responsibility to give seniors more choices and better benefits, including help with the rising costs of prescription drugs.
We have a tremendous opportunity to reform Medicare and help our seniors. The budget I proposed, and which the Congress passed, provides $400 billion in additional funds over the next 10 years to strengthen and improve Medicare -- so we have the resources to make reform work. We're also seeing a growing consensus -- in both houses of Congress and both parties -- that our seniors need a strengthened Medicare system that includes prescription drug coverage. The time is right to make progress.
Our nation has made a binding commitment to bring affordable health care to our seniors. We must honor that commitment by making sure Medicare stays current with the needs of today's seniors. When Medicare was launched 38 years ago, medicine focused on surgery and hospital stays -- and that is mainly what Medicare covers. Today, doctors routinely treat their patients with prescription drugs, preventive care, and ground-breaking medical devices -- but Medicare coverage has not kept pace with these changes. Our goal is to give seniors the best, most innovative care. This will require a strong, up-to-date Medicare system that relies on innovation and competition, not bureaucratic rules and regulations.
My views on Medicare are clear. First, those who like the Medicare system as it is should be able to stay just where they are, and also receive prescription drug benefits.
Second, those who want more coverage for preventive care and other benefits should be able to choose from multiple health plans under an enhanced Medicare program. This option would be similar to the health care coverage available to every federal employee. If that coverage is good enough for members of Congress and federal employees, it is good for our seniors.
Third, seniors who want the benefits of managed care plans -- including prescription drug coverage -- should be able to choose from a range of plans that best fit their personal needs.
And, fourth, we must provide extra help for low-income seniors, so that all seniors will have the ability to choose the Medicare option that serves them best -- and every senior will have the option of a prescription drug benefit.
In a Medicare system that reflects these principles, every senior in America would enjoy better benefits than they do today. And they would continue to benefit from the most important strength of American medicine: the ability to choose your own doctor. We want seniors and doctors -- not government bureaucrats -- to be in charge of the important health care decisions.
Members of Congress are working hard on this issue, and I encourage their efforts. I also urge Americans to make their voices heard. If we work together, Congress will pass a strong Medicare bill -- and our seniors will finally get the prescription drug benefits and choices they need and deserve.
Thank you for listening.