Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plan Would Give Elderly New Drug Benefits

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plan Would Give Elderly New Drug Benefits

Article excerpt

America's 32 million elderly people would get major new prescription drug benefits under Medicare for about $8 a month as part of President Bill Clinton's health revisions, the White House has told advocates for the elderly.

The package also will feature long-term care benefits for the elderly and for younger people with serious disabilities, emphasizing home- and community-based care instead of institutions.

Both will be major selling points with the elderly, who have been hurt by rising medical costs despite being the only age group that now enjoys almost universal coverage.

But lobbyists and legislators concerned about the elderly are wary about other aspects of Clinton's plan that will seek to pay for revisions in part by sharply slowing the growth of Medicare and other health spending.

White House officials said Tuesday that the elderly would be given the same prescription drug coverage as everybody else under Clinton's plan, with a $250 annual deductible and 20 percent co-payments.

One source said the expanded benefits would cost $152 billion over five years - $80 billion for long-term care and $72 billion for prescription drugs.

The official, who insisted on anonymity, said Clinton was projecting $124 billion in Medicare savings over that same period. Medicare's overall budget over five years exceeds $1 trillion.

"Every nickel and then some goes into new benefits," the official said.

The White House has begun briefing interest groups and congressional staff members on its package, which Clinton plans to detail in a speech to Congress in two weeks.

John Rother, legislative director for the American Association of Retired Persons, said aides to Clinton had told him the drug benefits would be worth $32 to $35 a month on average for each elderly person.

The elderly will be asked to bear 25 percent of those costs - about $8 to $8. …

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