WASHINGTON – President Bush urged Congress on Monday to enact Medicare (search) prescription drug legislation that also gives seniors the same choices in health care as lawmakers themselves enjoy.
"Members of Congress have got excellent choices," the president said at a meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Association (search). "If the choice idea is good enough for the lawmakers it ought to be good enough for the seniors of America."
Bush's remarks were the latest in a series of speeches designed to prod lawmakers to enact Medicare prescription drug legislation, and came as both houses worked toward votes by week's end on different versions of the bill. Both measures would create a prescription drug benefit, offered by the private insurance industry and subsidized by the government.
In addition, both bills would create a new managed care option for seniors, giving them a choice of a preferred provider organization that would stand in contrast to the traditional Medicare program.
Medicare aside, Bush also put in a plug for congressional action on other items on his domestic agenda, including Project Bioshield (search), a $6 billion, five-year plan to help develop and produce vaccines and treatments for bioterror agents such as anthrax (search) and botulinin toxin (search). He also called for the Senate to debate House-passed legislation to curtail the number of class action lawsuits filed around the country.
Bush urged European governments to abandon their boycott of bio-engineered crops, an action he said they were taking out of "unfounded scientific fears." If they complied, he said, African farmers would have expanded market for their agricultural products, allowing them to ease the continent's famine.
The president also was devoting part of his day to filling his campaign coffers. Aides said he would raise an estimated $4.5 million at a fund-raiser in New York later in the day.
At the same time, Vice President Dick Cheney was making his debut in the 2004 campaign's effort with fund-raisers expected to bring in about $450,000 in Richmond, Va., and $1.2 million in Hopkinton, Mass. Altogether, the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign hopes to raise at least $170 million.
In his remarks on Medicare, Bush said the current system, created 38 years ago, needs to be modernized to reflect changes that have evolved over the years. Additionally, he said, patients need a choice in health care. "When the government decides what drugs are covered and which illnesses are treated, patients face delays. ... Medicine works best when doctors and their patients decide what treatments to pursue," he said.
Cheney's dual fund-raising events showed he plans to reprise the hard-traveling role he assumed in last year's blitz for Republican candidates. He starred at about 80 events — more than Bush — and took in $40 million in donations.
Aides said Bush and Cheney do not plan to layer "official" events into their fund-raising travels this year, as they did last fall. Adding such events allowed the administration to bill taxpayers for half of every fund-raising trip.