Prescription drug plans for the elderly
Vallas Vs. Blagojevich
Published February 15, 2002
The major candidates for governor recently met with the Tribune editorial board in informal debates. Today and in the coming weeks, edited transcripts of those debates will appear on this page. Following is the exchange between Democrats Rod Blagojevich and Paul Vallas on their prescription drug plans.
Rod Blagojevich: So far I'm the only candidate in the Democratic primary who's offering a comprehensive plan to cover all senior citizens on prescription drugs, cover all seniors in need and cover all medicines prescribed by doctors and we show how to pay for them.
Now Paul (Vallas), you've been running around the state claiming you're a great manager yet somehow you've managed to leave 300, 000 seniors out in the cold with your prescription drug plan. It's an empty promise, it's a half-measured solution. You don't cover all seniors in need and you leave the impression that you are. How do you address that?
Paul Vallas: Well, Rod, the great thing about this question is I was going to ask you the very same question.
So let me answer your question with my question. My question is, Rod, how on Earth are you going to impose a mandate that in effect tells every single senior that we're going to give you a reduction on the cost of your prescription drugs? I don't think, quite frankly, that if Donald Trump moves to Illinois to build his big tower he is going to need a reduction on the cost of his prescription drugs.
I'm extraordinarily reluctant to pander to people by basically saying: " Here, I'm going to give you all relief. I'm going to provide every single senior with pharmaceutical relief. " What I want to do is target those who need (assistance) and I want to target the critical drugs. I want to do it in such a way so that you're not simply imposing another mandate that the state will never be able to finance. Let me go a step further, how are we going to do (the Blagojevich plan)? We're going to raise the tobacco tax. It seems that every single time somebody has a proposal to do something, whether it's school funding or anything else, it's `Let's raise the tobacco tax.' It was interesting in your press release, where you talked about this great new entitlement that you were going to impose on the state of Illinois, (that you're) pandering to every senior and telling every senior you're going to reduce their pharmaceutical costs for every single drug.
You're going to finance this all by raising the tobacco tax, but then in the same breath you said the reason you were raising the tobacco tax is because you wanted to reduce consumption. My question to you, if I could throw a question back, is what happens if the tobacco tax doesn't come close, which it won't, to produce the money that you have basically now mandated that the state come up with to finance this new entitlement? What are you going to cut?
Blagojevich: Well, first of all, it's your plan that's pandering. You leave 300, 000 seniors out in the cold.
Vallas: How do you pander when you leave someone out?
Blagojevich: OK, so you're admitting that you're leaving 300, 000 people out.
Vallas: I'm admitting that I'm not providing pharmaceutical assistance to every single senior. I'm trying to target seniors who have the greatest need. Just like I'm trying to target working families who have the greatest need.
Blagojevich: Ray and Gayle Andrews live in Elk Grove Village. They pay $12, 000 a year in prescription drugs. They are not Donald Trump. They are working people. They can't make it on a day-to-day basis. They are literally choosing between food and medicine. Your plan does nothing for them. My plan allows them in and gives them a discount (prescription drug) card and gives them catastrophe (coverage) so that we can help them.
We're being honest (with the tobacco tax) because we are showing how we're going to pay for it. And yes, we're raising the price of cigarettes by 43 cents and we're building a surplus of over $900 million so that we can handle unforeseen contingencies and never have to rely on general revenues.
You're the one who's pandering. You're promising a plan that leaves most senior citizens uncovered, gets nothing done and is the cynical old politics of promising something that sounds good because you looked at a poll, but you really don't do anything. You scratch the surface. My plan covers every senior in need, every medicine and we show how we pay for it.
Vallas: Well, I'll let the public be the judge when somebody comes out and says we will provide everybody with relief for every single pharmaceutical prescription . . . no matter who you are, and the plan that says we're going to try to target those seniors who are the greatest in need.