Senior Citizen Group Heralds Bush's 'Immediate Helping Hand'

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - A non-partisan senior citizens organization is strongly endorsing President George W. Bush's prescription plan for the elderly. "Based on today's news dispatches, President Bush's plan builds upon the common sense approach of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. It strengthens Medicare, helps seniors pay for all or part of Medicare premiums and subsidizes prescription drug costs, with low-income seniors receiving special help," said Jim Martin, president of the 60 Plus Association.

"No senior should have to make a choice between putting food on the table or being able to afford the prescription drugs they need," he added. "Seniors are pleased to learn of President Bush's plan to ensure that their golden years are spent doing all those things that bring joy to their lives and their families."

But, critics of the plan say there's no way it will pass.

President Bush's plan to help the nation's poorest elderly people pay for medication is "dead on arrival" in Congress, said Rep. Pete Stark of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means health subcommittee.

Bush's four-year "Immediate Helping Hand" program would provide $48 billion to the states to cover the full cost of prescription drugs for individual seniors earning under $11,300 and elderly couples earning $15,200 or less. The money would cover only part of the prescription drug bill for individual seniors earning up to $14,600 and couples earning up to $19,700.

"It should be buried, quickly and deeply, as a bad idea," Stark told reporters Monday. "It does little to help the sickest seniors who have huge drug costs."

Rather than settle for a short-term, limited solution, lawmakers in both parties want bigger, broader prescription drug relief to be part of a complete Medicare overhaul. Bush said that's fine, as long as Congress acts quickly to help the neediest seniors.