Q. I'm 72 years old and have an income of $10,000 a year. Although I am insured by Medicare and I buy supplemental insurance from Blue Cross and Blue Shield for $218 a month, I must pay a lot for medicine. As a result, more than half my income goes to medical and health insurance bills. How would the president's plan help me? T.N. -- Baltimore.
A. Medicare would remain a separate program. The president's plan would provide, for the first time, a Medicare outpatient prescription drug benefit. You would pay the first $250 of drug costs each year -- your deductible -- after which you would pay 20 percent of each prescription and Medicare would pay 80 percent. The government would pick up most of the cost of this benefit, but you would pay $11 or $12 a month in additional Medicare premiums.
A rival health care plan sponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, also maintains Medicare as a separate program. He would expand its benefits to include some preventive care, but not outpatient prescription drugs.
If you have questions about President Clinton's health reform program, we'd like to hear them. Call Sundial, The Baltimore Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800 (268-7736 in Anne Arundel County). After you hear the greeting, punch in the four-digit code 4425 on your touch-tone phone. Responses may appear in future coverage of the president's program or in this column.