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GOP Prescription Plan Is Due 'Very Soon'--Cheney


As Democrats pressure the Republican presidential ticket to detail its health plan, vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney said Sunday that a GOP proposal to give affordable prescription drugs to seniors will be announced "very soon."

"We're working right now," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Gov. [George W.] Bush has made it clear that he, too, wants to address this issue of prescription drugs for our seniors. . . . We'll shortly have a detailed proposal to put forth, and then people will be able to compare what we're suggesting versus what the . . . campaign [for Vice President Al Gore] has suggested."

Cheney's comments on morning talk shows Sunday prompted a quick response from Democrats. Gore's campaign arranged a telephone conference call for reporters with Donna Shalala, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. She said drug benefit proposals by Bush, the GOP nominee, and other Republicans have fallen short.

"All of their plans to date haven't covered everyone," Shalala said, adding that the GOP plans relying on private insurance companies to offer drug benefits have "already been debunked" because private companies have indicated they are not interested.

Gore has offered a 10-year $250-billion plan to provide a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

Gore's plan was also attacked Sunday by Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, who spoke in a telephone conference call for reporters that was arranged by the Bush campaign.

Frist argued that seniors would only get $19 a year--5 cents a day--in additional coverage from the Gore plan.

"When seniors look at this, they're going to say this is a joke," Frist, who is a medical doctor, said in the conference call.

Cheney, who appeared on talk shows for the three major networks Sunday morning, spoke from his home in Jackson Hole, Wyo. On other topics, he defended statements he and Bush have made about the declining state of the U.S. military and he discussed the lucrative retirement package he has arranged with Halliburton Co., the oil services company where he served as chief executive officer.

Cheney, a former Defense secretary, defended Bush's use of outdated information about military preparedness in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia earlier this month.

Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation" asked Cheney if it was a "cheap shot" for Bush to use 8-month-old information about two divisions of the military not being ready for active duty.

Cheney deferred the question, stressing that the real point was the "overall state of the military," saying "there is an enormous amount of evidence available that, in fact, we've got serious problems in terms of decline."

On the issue of his retirement package, Cheney said he is taking steps to avoid any conflict of interest concerns that might be raised if he is elected vice president and he is still receiving compensation from Halliburton.

His early retirement stock package of nearly $34 million includes as much as $6 million in stock options that he wouldn't be able to exercise for three years, well into his term as vice president if his ticket wins in November. Cheney, who served at Halliburton for five years, stopped short of saying he would be willing to relinquish those shares that are still open.

"Well, I'd like not to have to give away all my assets in order to serve in public," he said on "Face the Nation." "I don't think that's required, and shouldn't be. But, as I say, we'll do whatever is necessary. We're looking at various possibilities."


Times staff writers James Gerstenzang and Maria L. La Ganga contributed to this story.

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