Bush not opposed to Medicare drug benefit reforms, officials say

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President Bush would veto efforts to repeal the new Medicare drug benefit but not efforts to reform it, administration officials clarified late last week.

The clarification came in response to concerns about comments the president made earlier this month. Bush said at the swearing-in ceremony for new Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt: "I signed Medicare reform proudly, and any attempt to limit the choices of our seniors and to take away their prescription drug coverage under Medicare will meet my veto."

House Republican Study Committee Chair Mike Pence (R-IN) said Bush administration officials noted that Bush's comments were targeted at efforts to repeal the drug benefit itself.

"The president is not threatening a veto on any effort to shape the prescription drug benefit," he said. Pharmacists serving the long-term care field are pushing to have the benefit amended so that it would include certain classes of drugs that are currently scheduled to be excluded.