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Reacting to President Bush's Speech on Medicare: Reform Jewish Movement Opposes Medicare Privatization, Calls for Prescription Drug Coverage

Weinstein: Those who rely on Medicare for their health coverage do not simply need more choices in health care plans; they need an improved, government-administered Medicare plan that includes the physician choice already provided, along with enhanced benefits - including prescription drug coverage.


Contact: Alexis Rice or Becca Nagorsky 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, January 31, 2003 - Following President Bush's announcement in Grand Rapids, Michigan of his proposal to rely increasingly on private insurers to administer Medicare benefits, Barbara Weinstein, Legislative Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), released the following statement:

Medicare is the nation's largest health insurance plan, successfully providing coverage for our nation's elderly and disabled citizens. In Tuesday's State of the Union address and again in Michigan on Wednesday, President Bush proposed privatizing Medicare by tying a prescription drug benefit to participation in privately administered health benefits that will push America's seniors and people with disabilities into managed care. While Medicare is in need of enhanced benefits, including prescription drugs, privatization will never accomplish that goal.

Under the President's plan, only those seniors and disabled individuals willing to switch from traditional Medicare to private insurers will receive prescription drug coverage. By pushing these vulnerable members of society toward HMOs, President Bush is encouraging beneficiaries to play "Russian roulette" with their health care. Those who rely on Medicare for their health coverage do not simply need more choices in health care plans; they need an improved, government-administered Medicare plan that includes the physician choice already provided, along with enhanced benefits - including prescription drug coverage.

40 million elderly and disabled Americans depend on Medicare to provide them with guaranteed and reliable health care. Moving Medicare into the private marketplace would seriously jeopardize its dependability. Past experience with privatization, such as the implementation of Medicare + Choice, has not streamlined the health care system at all. In fact, Medicare + Choice plans do not guarantee access to beneficiaries. Providers frequently pull out of Medicare, leaving the elderly and disabled scrambling for new insurance coverage. In addition, and contrary to President Bush's claims, private insurance is actually much less efficient than traditional Medicare. While private insurers spend an average of 15% of revenue on administrative costs, Medicare spends only 2%. To truly improve Medicare, we need to expand existing government-administered programs, not privatize.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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