Bush Plans to Focus Domestic Agenda on Health Care in 2006
President Bush plans to focus on health care as the "centerpiece of his 2006 domestic agenda," in part in response to employer and consumer concerns about increased costs, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, Bush likely will propose expansions of previous health care plans, rather than new federal spending, and the proposals likely will focus on market forces, tax credits, competition among providers and individual health insurance, rather than employer-sponsored coverage.
Bush might propose plans to provide larger tax breaks for U.S. residents who purchase individual health insurance, encourage broader use of health savings accounts and help consumers obtain more information about providers, the Journal reports. According to the Journal, the focus on health care "is intended to give Republicans an election-year answer to many of the worries that voters have about the fast-changing economy."
Bush on Wednesday called health care an "unmanageable cost" for employers, adding that the health care system should have "a direct connect between provider and consumer" and "transparency in the pricing system."
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said increased information about providers would help individuals with HSAs who "don't feel like they've got enough useful information to make the best decisions about their care."
However, the Bush proposals likely will receive criticism from conservative Republicans for "not going far enough" and from Democrats and unions over concerns that the plans would "undermine" the employer-sponsored health insurance system and prompt individuals not to seek preventive care, the Journal reports.
Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute said, "I think this is a classic risk shift onto individuals that is both unpalatable to people and bad policy" (McKinnon/Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 1/12).