News Release

Analysts on Medicare

The following health-care policy specialists are available for interviews on the new Clinton plan for Medicare:

DON McCANNE, M.D.
A member of the National Coalition to Protect, Improve and Expand Medicare, Dr. McCanne said today: “Including prescription coverage in Medicare is definitely a step in the right direction, but it is still inadequate because it leaves too much of the cost as out-of-pocket expenses which will remain unaffordable even for moderate income Medicare recipients. The direction we should be moving towards is fixing Medicare and expanding it to cover all of us. The American health-care system is a disaster now, between the 43 million uninsured people and the damage wrought by the market approach to health care. We need comprehensive reform and a change to methods of cost containment that are patient-oriented.”
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GAIL SHEARER
Director of Health Policy Analysis for Consumers Union, Shearer said today: “The president’s proposal is a much better value than the current Medigap policies many Medicare recipients have. Under Medigap, a typical 75-year-old pays $1,800 for prescription coverage and gets at most $1,250 of benefits per year. However, we are concerned about the voluntary nature of the president’s proposal. Ideally, prescription drugs would be covered for all, just like doctor and hospital bills. If only those in need elect coverage, premiums collected will not cover as large a portion of costs as anticipated, thus spiraling premiums.”
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JOHN HESS
A retired New York Times reporter, currently a radio commentator and an analyst on the economics of aging, Hess said: “The Clinton administration’s proposals for Medicare are pure election-year posturing. There is no talk of Medicare reform even reaching Congress this year. Moreover, the proposals fail to address the central problem — the nonstop rise in the price of prescription medicines. Someone has to have the courage to lower the boom on the pharmaceutical industry and start controlling the price of these medications. The first thing that will happen if the government pays for prescriptions is that employers who now cover all or most of the cost of brand-name drugs — which are in many instances much better than generic counterparts — will drop that coverage. The government in the meantime would have a limit on how much per year they will cover and the premium would come out of our Social Security checks on top of the increased premium that will be charged for Medicare. Employers will be better off, the drug companies will be better off, but people who now have better coverage from their employers and Medigap coverage — and those with drug bills that exceed the proposed limits on government coverage — would be worse off.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167