President Bush urged Medicare reform negotiators to complete a bill he can sign before year-end, saying his administration was "determined to meet this responsibility" of modernizing the program. In a White House event at which the president did not take questions, Bush said seniors must have choices other than traditional Medicare to prompt competition. The House and Senate bills, however, differ in their approach to choice, and many Democrats are unlikely to support the House version, which would put Medicare in direct competition with private plans. An AARP official said the competition provision alone could prevent an agreement. Bush, however, said he is "optimistic that the House and Senate will produce a bill." Responding to Bush's speech in a written statement, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) cautioned against passing a Medicare bill by the "slimmest of margins" and said Bush should help settle remaining "make or break" issues. -- by Jeff Tieman
Bush presses Medicare conferees to produce a bill
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