2 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Seniors face new Medicare choices
Nearly $400 billion will
be spent in next 10 years
to subsidize drug benefits
WASHINGTON (AP) - The new
prescription drug benefit signed into
law yesterday by President Bush as
part of major Medicare changes will
confront seniors with numerous and
sometimes-difficult choices on their
health care coverage.
Bush said the new drug insurance
"will save our seniors from a lot of
worry." But the bill's critics said the
worries have just begun for
Medicare's 40 million older and dis-
The government will spend nearly
$400 billion over the next 10 years to
subsidize prescription drug coverage,
which begins in January 2006. At the
same time, the government will
encourage insurance companies to
offer private plans to millions of older
Americans who now receive health
care benefits under terms fixed by the
"Medicine has changed but
Medicare has not - until today," Bush
said, explaining that prescription drugs
and outpatient care have replaced hos-
pital stays over the past two decades.
"Our seniors are fully capable of mak-
ing health care choices, and this bill
allows them to do that,"
Republicans generally hailed the
signing as a political triumph they
could use in next year's election to
neutralize Democrats' historical advan-
tage on issues regarding the elderly.
"Democratic leaders have lashed out
at us, at the president and AARP,"
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of
Texas said. "But Democrats have no
one to blame but themselves for their
abject failure on health care. We want-
ed a bill, they just wanted an issue, and
now the American people know who
took their concerns seriously."
Democrats pledged to fight in the
Republican-controlled Congress for
changes in the law, principally for
measures to bring down the price of
prescription drugs. "You sold us out,
so we're going to go all out to repeal
what you've done," Sen. Edward
Kennedy (D-Mass.) said.
The first tangible result of the
Medicare law will be prescription drug
discount cards that the president said
would take effect.in June.
He said seniors will receive a mailing
in the spring to explain the card, which
will cost no more than $30 a year. It will
offer discounts that Bush said will range
from 10 to 25 percent off retail prices.
Critics say the promise of savings is
The president sought to reassure
seniors yesterday that their choices
will be explained to them in detail
and that they can keep the health
care they have.
"If you don't want to change your
current coverage, you don't have to
change," Bush said.
But that option may not exist for
some seniors. The Congressional Bud-
get Office estimates that 2.7 million
retirees will lose the drug coverage
they now receive from former employ-
ers, although other projections are
NEWS N BRIEF
Russians vote for nationalist party
A sweeping victory by President Vladimir Putin's allies pushed liberal, West-
ern-oriented parties out of parliament for the first time since the Soviet collapse,
and the White House expressed concern yesterday over the fairness of a vote
human rights officials said marked a retreat from democracy in Russia.
The main pro-Kremlin party, United Russia, won nearly three times as many
votes in Sunday's elections as its closest rival, according to preliminary results.
Its new power, together with the defeat of liberal parties and a surge by nation-
alists who have called for strong state control of the economy, raised questions
about Putin's plans for what seems certain to be a second term following March
Putin, who has boosted the economy by introducing reforms but has been
accused of stifling dissent and tightening control over the media, offered few
hints of his plans for the future.
He promised to turn to the liberals for ideas and hinted some of their leaders
might be recruited into the government - an effort to ease fears the Kremlin
might roll back reforms. But he also suggested the elections showed liberal views
had little support among Russians.
Sources: Gore to endorse Dean for ticket
Former Vice President Al Gore will endorse Howard Dean for the Democratic pres-
idential nomination today, a breakthrough on the eve of the primary season that could
tighten Dean's grip on the front-runner's position and usher more support from wary
party elite. Gore, who won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote in the disputed
2000 election, has agreed to appear with Dean in New York City's Harlem neighbor-
hood and then travel with the former Vermont governor to Iowa for a formal endorse-
ment, several Democratic officials, including one close to Gore, said yesterday.
Dean was coy about the endorsement, telling several hundred supporters at a Man-
hattan fund-raiser late yesterday that he could "neither confirm nor deny" it.
Five weeks before Iowa's kickoff caucuses, the coveted endorsement is a breathtak-
ing victory for a candidate whose anti-war, anti-establishment candidacy has given
pause to party leaders and key constituencies, several Democratic strategists said.
"What this says is that all these Washington insiders who have been gnashing their
teeth, wringing their hands and clinging to their cocktail cups can relax now. Dean's
been knighted by the ultimate insider," said Democratic consultant Dean Strother.
President Bush signs into law yesterday the most far-reaching
changes in Medicare since it began nearly 40 years ago.
And those seniors who now rely on
supplemental insurance to defray the
cost of prescription drugs will be
forced to make a change, as these so-
called Medigap policies will be barred
from offering a drug benefit beginning
Some Medicaid beneficiaries, among
the poorest of seniors, also could see
restrictions placed on their drug cover-
age, several health analysts said.
Whether to sign up for the drug ben-
efit or switch from traditional
Medicare to an HMO or preferred
provider organization will be a deci-
sion that for many seniors will depend
on their current or anticipated future
spending on drugs.
After paying for the first $250 in
prescriptions, seniors will be responsi-
ble for 25 percent of the next $2,000 in
drug costs. Between $2,250 and
$5,100 in drug costs, the government
will pay nothing. Over $5,100, the
government pays all but 5 percent of
The monthly premium for the drug
plan is estimated to be a national aver-
age of $35 in 2006. But the exact
shape and cost of the drug benefit also
could differ from one region of the
country to the next. And nothing in the
law precludes private insurers from
offering more generous but also more
The president said the average sen-
ior will see today's drug bill cut rough-
ly in half, but his calculation includes a
savings of 20 percent that is not found
in the law.
U.S. may lose Afghan support over raid error
Afghan leaders, U.N.
worry about consequences
of deadly U.S. raid
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -
Afghan officials warned yesterday
that an American military attack that
mistakenly killed nine children play-
ing in a remote village could make it
harder to persuade ordinary people to
support Afghanistan's U.S.-backed
The comment came as the U.S. mil-
itary launched what it called its
largest operation yet to try to put
down a growing Taliban insurgency in
the most dangerous parts of the coun-
try, the south and east.
Four battalions totaling about 2,000
soldiers are taking part in the opera-
tion, dubbed Avalanche, across the
south and east, military spokesman
Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said yesterday.
"This one is the largest we have
ever designed," he told reporters at the
coalition military headquarters at
Bagram, north of the capital, Kabul.
The enemy "isn't going to know when
we hit, he isn't going to know what
Taliban fighters have stepped up
attacks in provinces near the Pakistani
border and in Ghazni and Zabul
provinces south of the capital, a French
U.N. worker was gunned down last
month and three international workers
were kidnapped in past weeks.
Saturday's airstrike highlighted the
danger that a heavy U.S. military hand
may only alienate Afghan civilians.
"Every innocent who is killed has
sisters and "Every in
nephews - and who is ki
behind them the
tribe," said brothers,
A m b a r k h i Insisters an
deputy governor - and bel
of Paktika, one of ,
the most danger- the tribe."
ous provinces for -S
and their Afghan Paktika p
allies. "If ten
people are killed, how many people
The warplane attack also was criti-
cized outside Afghanistan.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
was "profoundly saddened" by the
children's deaths and called for a thor-
"The fight against terrorism cannot
be won at the expense of innocent
lives," Fred Eckhard, Annan's
spokesman, said in New York.
Seven boys and two girls died when
the A-10 warplane sprayed a dusty field
with 30mm high-explosive rounds in
Hutala village, 150 miles southwest of
Kabul, the Afghan capital.
The attack also killed a man that
U.S. officials say was Mullah Wazir, a
ocent Taliban com-
ed has mander suspect-
ed of attacking
ncles, aid groups and
workers on the
ind them road.
the dead man was
dokhan Ambarkhil Abdul Hamid, a
Deputy governor laborer in his
wince, Afghanistan twenties who had
Iran just days before his death, and that
Mullah Wazir cleared out days before.
Residents and local officials sug-
gested the Americans were fed bogus
intelligence and criticized what they
called a careless use of military might.
"I don't know why the U.S. forces did
this," said Khial Mohammad, the deputy
governor of Ghazni province where the
attack took place. "Mullah Wazir wasn't
IIJ~ff ed c~nuec rao
A PAR T ME NT H OM E S
1, 2 & 3 Bedroom Apartment Homes
there. He's not a famous commander,
but he is famous for smuggling."
Hilferty, the coalition spokesman,
said DNA was taken from the scene to
try to prove the strike had hit its target.
Yesterday, at a briefing at the U.S.
military headquarters in Bagram,
north of Kabul, Hilferty said only that
the coalition "was still working on
identifying that man."
Aware of the damage such incidents
can do to their own image, senior U.S.
officers flew into the village on Sun-
day to offer condolences and help.
"Such mistakes could make the
Afghan people think ill of the coali-
tion," Hilferty said.
U.S. officials insist they had pre-
pared the attack carefully and were
unaware of the children when the
order was given to fire.
The wave of Taliban attacks against
aid workers, U.S. soldiers and Afghan
government officials has belied
American claims that it is winning the
war to stabilize the country.
Two years after the fall of the Tal-
iban, some 11,700 mostly American
soldiers are still on combat missions
in Afghanistan against the Taliban and
its allies: al-Qaida remnants and fol-
lowers of renegade warlord Gulbud-
Continued from Page 1.
time to properly test foods for these
fats, as well as physically change the
millions of nutrition labels that line
grocery stores across the country, said
Anita Sandretto, nutrition program
director at the School of Public Health.
Currently, the only way for people to
discern the presence of trans fats in
food is to check whether or not a par-
tially-hydrogenated oil is among the
"The (process of making) trans-fatty
acids is something we've done to our-
selves - we've taken liquid fats and
hydrogenated them so that products
can sit on the shelf longer," Fitzgerald
said. "It's a convenience thing."
The reason it has taken so long for
the FDA to mandate listing of this other
type of fat is because it takes a long
time for its effects to become evident,
chemistry Prof. Kathleen Nolta said.
Nolta added that the importance of
these new labeling procedures cannot
"While it is a no-brainer to avoid
using fats and oils high in trans fats,
saturated fats, and cholesterol, it is a
real problem to choose wiser when
confronted with prepared foods and
fast foods where the real amounts of
added ingredients are not known."
The real question is whether or not
FDA labeling of trans fats will have
any effect on how students choose to
purchase their food in the future.
Schumacher said he was not very
convinced that labeling trans fats would
have an impact on students, mainly.
because they weren't educated enough
to know what was bad for them.
BAG HDAD, Iraq
U.S. soldier, Iraqi
policeman die in Iraq
Insurgents shot and killed a U.S. sol-
dier guarding a gas station yesterday in
northern Iraq, and an Iraqi policeman
died trying to defuse a bomb, the U.S.
The attack on the soldier from the
U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division
took place in Mosul, 250 miles north of
Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt
said in Baghdad.
"Four Iraqi males traveling in
vehicles stopped approximately 50
meters (yards) from a gas station in
Mosul and opened fire on coalition
soldiers guarding the station," Kim-
mitt said. "One coalition soldier
died of gunshot wounds in that
Hours after the killing, three U.S.
soldiers in Mosul were wounded
when a bomb exploded as their
patrol passed, a U.S. military
spokesperson said on 'condition of
In a verdict that could bring an abrupt
end to a three-decade political career, a
jury convicted U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow of
manslaughter yesterday for a collision
that killed a motorcyclist, rejecting the
congressman's claim that he was disori-
ented by a diabetic reaction.
The jury in Janklow's boyhood
hometown deliberated for about five
hours before returning the verdict.
Janklow (R-S.D.) was convicted of
second-degree manslaughter, reckless
driving, running a stop sign and speed-
ing for the Aug. 16 crash that killed
Randy Scott, 55, a farmer from Hard-
wick, Minn. Prosecutors said Janklow
was traveling more than 70 mph in a
white Cadillac when he crashed with
Pittsburgh entered another one of its
postindustrial renaissances in the
1990s, getting rid of many of the slag
heaps and soot-stained smokestacks
that defined the Steel City for more
than 100 years.
Biotechnology companies and finan-
cial servicesfirms mioved in. New
sports stadiums and a new convention
It turns out that Pittsburgh is resting
on a shaky financial foundation.
Hoping to stave off bankruptcy, Mayor
Tom Murphy recently asked the state of
Pennsylvania to designate Pittsburgh a
"distressed" city and appoint an overseer
to draw up a recovery plan. A public
hearing on the request is set for today.
- Compiledfrom Daily wire reports.
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