Bush Health Care Proposals Could Face Obstacles
President Bush could face "significant political obstacles" to health care proposals that he plans to announce in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, but he is "counting on the deepening frustration with mounting medical costs to overcome the resistance," the Chicago Tribune reports (Graham, Chicago Tribune, 1/31). According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Bush likely will propose to increase the limit on annual contributions to health savings accounts and to allow consumers to use pretax funds from the accounts to pay for health insurance premiums (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/31).
Bush also likely will call for expanded tax breaks for out-of-pocket health care spending for individuals, a proposal that supporters maintain would allow more uninsured U.S. residents to purchase health insurance. Individuals currently qualify for tax breaks when they spend more than 7.5% of their annual incomes on health care (Chicago Tribune, 1/31).
In addition, Bush plans to announce several proposals that have previously failed in Congress, such as a plan to cap damages in medical malpractice lawsuits (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/31). Bush likely will call for legislation that would allow small businesses to form association health plans across state lines.
According to Dow Jones, the "medical system's woes are too big to ignore," but the health care proposals that Bush plans to announce in his State of the Union address -- plans that would move the nation "further in the direction on individual responsibility" -- remain "controversial."
A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of 1,066 U.S. adults conducted between Jan. 20 and Jan. 22 found that about 60% of respondents disapprove of how Bush has addressed health care issues, compared with 40% in mid-2002 (Gerencher, Dow Jones, 1/30).
In addition, a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 76% of respondents cited the issue of health care costs and access an "absolute priority" for 2006 (Harwood, Wall Street Journal, 1/31).
In related news, congressional Democrats have launched a "weeklong extravaganza" of "pre-emptive potshots" to criticize the proposals on health care and other issues that Bush plans to announce in his State of the Union address, the Washington Post reports (Murray/Babington, Washington Post, 1/31).
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they will fight the expansion of HSAs that Bush likely will propose (Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times, 1/31).
In addition, Emanuel called the launch of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit "chaos" (Wegner, CongressDaily, 1/31).
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) criticized Bush in a speech to the Senate. Reid said, "It's not credible for the president to suggest that the state of the union is as strong as it should be," adding, "From health care to national security, this Republican corruption here in Washington has taken its toll on our country" (Washington Post, 1/31).
Several broadcast programs reported on the health care proposals that Bush plans to announce in his State of the Union address:
- APM's "Marketplace Morning Report": The segment includes comments from Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Dan Perrin, publisher of HSA Insider (Palmer, "Marketplace Morning Report," APM, 1/31). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Altman; former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.); Paul Fronstin, a health care economist with the Employee Benefit Research Institute; Jim Jaffe, a Washington, D.C., resident who used an HSA; and Merrill Matthews, director of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/31). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment interviews Howard Dean, chair of the National Democratic Committee, about Democratic strategies on health care and other issues (Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/31). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.