President Bush’s State of the Union address Jan. 29 was uninspired. The president’s proposal leaves the majority of America’s seniors without affordable drug coverage.

The test of a good prescription drug proposal is whether it covers all seniors for all drugs at the best possible price. For example, Ray Andrews, of Elk Grove Village, Ill. has diabetes and psoriasis. His wife Gaylee suffers from arthritis, asthma, emphysema, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Their prescription drugs cost $12,600 a year. Ray and Gaylee, both in their 70s, work three part-time jobs to pay for their prescription drugs.

The President’s proposal does not help Ray and Gaylee Andrews. It also does nothing to rein in rising drug costs, which are straining seniors’ wallets and busting state Medicaid budgets. We have the ability to fund a comprehensive prescription drug plan that will cover all 39 million seniors and people with disabilities. But we need a President who will stand up to the big drug companies. Congress can insure that every American senior has access to affordable prescription drugs if it just has the will to delay the tax cut for one million millionaires.

This is about who comes first. Why should multi-millionaires like former Enron CEO Ken Lay get an additional tax break while people like Ray and Gaylee Andrews have to wait for their prescription drugs? If the president only learns one lesson from the Enron scandal, it is that he should put the needs of America’s families and seniors before the needs of his special interest contributors. Americans are calling on the President to put first things first. Take care of filling the prescriptions of our seniors instead of filling the bank accounts of pharmaceutical companies.

William McNary is president of USAction, the nation’s largest grassroots consumer activist group, with three million members and 33 affiliates.

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