Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry promises to expand the government-run Medicare health care program for the nation’s seniors with a prescription drug benefit. Kerry is campaigning in western Iowa today.Kerry says the Bush Administration is trying to squeeze seniors by requiring, in most cases, that they buy private-sector insurance as the means for covering prescription drug costs. Kerry proposes a prescription drug benefit through Medicare. He says it’s not all money — part of it calls for new restrictions on the pharmaceutical industry to help lower the cost of drugs. Kerry says Americans spend about 160 billion dollars a year on prescription drugs, and about 10 percent of that — 16 billion dollars — goes to incentives, rebates and kickbacks. He says ending those kickbacks, as well as getting generics more widely used, would help control the costs of prescription meds for seniors.Kerry says there are all kinds of ways to accomplish the goal “if you’re not in the pocket of drug companies like George Bush is.” Kerry also proposes stricter enforcement of existing regulations for nursing homes and a new tax credit for seniors who give money to a relative for college. Older Americans would have to work at least 10 hours a week in “volunteer service” to qualify for the education grant tax credit Kerry proposes.
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