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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 13, 2005

President Participates in Medicare Roundtable with Seniors
Greenspring Village Retirement Community
Springfield, Virginia

President's Remarks

      In Focus: Medicare

10:36 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Mark McClellan and I have just heard from folks who have been analyzing and/or helping people analyze the current Medicare drug benefit and current Medicare -- modernized Medicare program.

Awhile ago I worked with the Congress to modernize and strengthen Medicare for our seniors. And the reason we did, because if the government commits to health care for our seniors it ought to be a program that does the following things: One, provide modern medicine; and two, give seniors a variety of options from which to match their needs to that which is available.

We fully recognize that for some seniors, that this is a daunting task. When you give people choice and options, it is -- it can be a situation where people say, I don't really -- this is something I may not want to do. And so I want to assure the seniors the following things: One, the Medicare -- the new Medicare plan is voluntary, it's optional; two, that there are people around who are willing to help explain the program for you and to you. There's -- when you have choices to make, there's going to be some -- you do have choices to make -- and somebody will be able to sit down with you and explain why this program is good.

For example, Eloise is talking about the fact that she's spending a lot on prescription drugs, and under the new Medicare plan, she's able to choose a program that will substantially reduce the cost of her prescription drugs. Low-income seniors will get substantial help. People will be able to match a program to their specific needs.

And what we want to assure seniors around the country is that there is help. You can call 1-800-Medicare. You can get on the Internet with Ask your son or daughter, ask people in your church, ask people in AARP, ask people in your community center to help you look at what's available for you. It's a good deal. It's a good deal for our seniors.

And so one of the reasons we have come today is to encourage people to see what is available in the new law. Enrollment began in mid-November; the program will begin in January of this year. We urge you to look at the options available to you and sign up by May of next year.

This is government that has recognized it has a responsibility to help our seniors. And the bill I was fortunate enough to sign into law does just that.

Again, I want to thank you all for joining us. I want to thank you for your hard work, Charlotte. Ellen DeMucci is a pharmacist. One of the interesting groups that are reaching out to our seniors are those who are behind the counter. Ellen and her fellow pharmacists interface with seniors on a daily basis. They know the needs of seniors. They, in many cases, have analyzed what's available for our seniors. They're available to help seniors fill out the forms. She has worked with Eloise.

Again, I urge our fellow citizens to help our seniors realize what's available in this wonderful program. And I finally want to thank Senator Allen and Congressman Davis for joining us, as well. They're interested in this program, they're interested in the people of Virginia, and they want to make sure the seniors of Virginia get all the options available for them to choose from.

Thank you all.

END 10:40 A.M. EST

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