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'I Want to Give Some of . . . Your Money Back'

October 18, 2000

Here are excerpts, provided by the Federal News Service, from the third presidential depate between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. Jim Lehrer of PBS was moderator. To see a complete transcript or video of the 90-minute debate, visit The Times Web site at Text and video of the two previous Bush-Gore debates, and of the vice presidential debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joseph I. Lieberman, also are available on the site.

Prescription Drugs

Q: . . . Are either of you concerned with finding some feasible way to lower the price of pharmaceutical drugs such as education on minimizing intake, revamp of the FDA process or streamlining the drug companies' procedures instead of just finding more money to pay for them?

BUSH: Well, that's a great question. I think one of the problems we have, particularly for seniors, is there's no prescription drug coverage in Medicare, and therefore when they have to try to purchase drugs, they do so on their own. There's no kind of collective bargaining, there's no power of purchasing among seniors.

So I think Step One, to make sure prescription drugs [are] more affordable for seniors--and those are the folks who really rely upon prescription drugs a lot these days--is to reform the Medicare system, is to have prescription drugs as an integral part of Medicare once and for all.

The problem we have today is that--like the patients' bill of rights, particularly with health care, there's a lot of bickering in Washington, D.C. It's kind of like a political issue as opposed to a people issue.

So what I want to do is I want to call upon Republicans and Democrats to forget all the arguing and finger-pointing, and come together and take care of our seniors with a prescription drug program that says we'll pay for the poor seniors, we'll help seniors with prescription drugs.

In the meantime, I think it's important to have what's called immediate helping hand, which is direct money to states so that seniors--poor seniors don't have to choose between food and medicine. . . . I'm against price controls.

I think price controls would hurt our ability to continue important research and development. . . . Expediting drugs through the FDA makes sense, of course. Allowing the new bill that was passed in the Congress made sense, to allow for, you know, drugs that were sold overseas to come back . . . into the United States. That makes sense.

But the best thing to do is to reform Medicare.

GORE: All right, here we go again. Now look, if you want someone who will spend a lot of words describing a whole convoluted process and then end up supporting legislation that is supported by the big drug companies, this is your man. [He pointed at Bush.]

If you want someone who will fight for you and who will fight for the middle-class families and working men and women who are sick and tired of having their parents and grandparents pay higher prices for prescription drugs than anybody else, then I want to fight for you.

. . . Listen, for 24 years, I have never been afraid to take on the big drug companies. They do some great things. They discover great new cures, and that's great. We want to--we want them to continue that.

But they are now spending more money on advertising and promotion--you see all these ads?--than they are on research and development. And they're trying to artificially extend the monopoly patent protection so they can keep charging these very high prices.

I want to streamline the approval of the competing generic drugs and the new kinds of treatments that can compete with them so that we bring the price down for everybody.

Now, briefly, let me tell you how my prescription drug plan works. . . . I propose a real prescription drug benefit under Medicare for all seniors, all seniors. And here's how it works. You pick your own doctor, and nobody can take that away from you.

The doctor chooses the prescription that you need, and nobody can overrule your doctor. You go to your own pharmacy, and then Medicare pays half the price. If you're poor, they pay all of it. If you have extraordinarily high costs, then they pay all over $4,000 out of pocket. And I'll bring new competition to bring the price down. And if you pass the big drug companies' bill, nothing will happen.

Health Care

Q: . . . Would you be open to the idea of a national health care plan for everybody?

GORE: I think that we should move step by step toward universal health coverage, but I am not in favor of government doing it all. We've spent 65 years now on the development of a hybrid system--partly private, partly public.

And 85% of our people have health insurance, 15% don't. That adds up to 44 million people. That is a national outrage. We have got to get health coverage for those who do not have it.

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