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Strengthening Medicare

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 17, 2002

Strengthening Medicare's Coverage Options: Affordable Health Care to Improve Lives

"Our Nation has a moral commitment to fulfill Medicare's promise of health care security for American seniors and people with disabilities. Yet, we need to do more to meet that commitment. Two problems demand immediate action: Medicare must provide prescription drug coverage, and all seniors should be able to choose an affordable Medicare coverage option that best meets their needs. We will keep our promise to senior Americans ... and we will make Medicare stronger."

President George W. Bush

Medicare+Choice Is the Preferred Choice for Millions of Medicare Beneficiaries - Including Lower-Income and Minority Beneficiaries

Medicare+Choice plans are private plans in Medicare that offer a more comprehensive package of Medicare benefits at a lower overall cost to seniors than the "traditional" fee-for-service Medicare plan. As a result, around 5 million seniors (around 1 in 7) choose to enroll in Medicare+Choice plans. Beneficiaries with low incomes, and Hispanic-American and African-American beneficiaries, are especially likely to choose Medicare+Choice plans.

Medicare+Choice is More Affordable

Medicare+Choice plans are generally much less expensive coverage options than the traditional fee-for-service Medicare plan, for beneficiaries who do not have supplemental insurance from Medicaid or their former employer. To stay in the traditional plan, these beneficiaries must get costly Medicare supplemental insurance, so-called Medigap coverage, or face unlimited out-of-pocket expenses to fill in all the gaps in Medicare's benefits.

Medicare+Choice Provides Prescription Drug Coverage

Medicare+Choice has long been the preferred choice for millions of beneficiaries because of the extra benefits available, including prescription drug coverage and lower drug prices.

Medicare+Choice Provides Extra Benefits to Support Seniors with Serious and Chronic Health Conditions

Medicare+Choice plans offer additional benefits that are particularly valuable to beneficiaries with serious and chronic health conditions, such as programs to help patients with diabetes and cancer avoid complications.

Medicare+Choice Provides Innovative Health Care Services

Medicare+Choice plans provide innovative health care services that are generally not available in the traditional Medicare plan, such as annual checkups to catch health problems early, exercise and wellness programs, and programs to improve patient safety.

Seniors are Losing the Medicare+Choice Coverage They Depend On, Because of Medicare's Unfair System of Competition and Payment

Even though Medicare+Choice is clearly the preferred choice of many beneficiaries, including those who are the most vulnerable, years of consistently inadequate payment updates have left millions of beneficiaries without this important option.

The President's Commitment to Medicare: All Seniors Should Be Able to Choose the Coverage They Prefer, with Prescription Drug Coverage

The President is committed to ensuring that, as Medicare adds prescription drug coverage, the valuable benefits in Medicare+Choice plans remain available for beneficiaries and are strengthened. He has proposed improvements in Medicare to give seniors access to modern, reliable coverage options, similar to those available to all Federal employees through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.