Wesley Clark on Health Care
NATO General; Democratic Candidate for President
A: To do it right, you’ve got to bargain competitively with the pharmaceutical companies and lower the prices. You’ve got to stop giving a handout to the HMOs. You’ve got to take Medicare out of competition with the HMOs. And you’ve got to close the donut hole. I think with the right leadership in Washington, we can fix this Medicare prescription benefit for our seniors.
A: First, we’re going to insure all children. That will be mandated, and we’ll help the parents if they can’t afford it. Second, we’re going to get all adults access to insurance, and we’re going to help low- and moderate-income families to buy that insurance. Third, we’re going to really do cost containment.
A: Unfortunately, the bill signed by President Bush does too little for America’s seniors and too much to reward HMOs and large drug companies. We ought to give the government the power to negotiate with drug companies through the free market to get bulk discounts on popular drugs. We need to do more to reduce barriers to low-cost generic drugs entering the market and prevent drug companies from exploiting legal loopholes to keep them out. And we need to allow seniors to import safe, low-cost prescription drugs from Canada. Most importantly, I want to see a real drug bill that strengthens Medicare instead of undermining it by forcing seniors into HMOs.
CLARK: We have to recognize we are in a health care crisis. We’ve got 41 million Americans uninsured, we’ve got more dropping out of their insurance programs as they lose their jobs. Even the people who have health insurance today are insecure about keeping it.
I don’t have a complete package of health care proposals [yet], but here’s what I would do. We need to take the existing programs, we need to build on the existing programs, we need to take the states’ child health insurance program an stretch it. We need to raise the limits on Medicaid. We need to look at the 55 to 65 age group and help them. And we need to look at the substance that’s in those proposals. So we’ll come out with our health proposal. We’ll move it that way.
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