Bush To Outline New Health Care Initiatives in State of the Union Address
As part of a political strategy to indicate concern for domestic issues, President Bush is expected to highlight new health care initiatives during his State of the Union address next month, USA Today reports (Page, USA Today, 12/10). While a White House spokesperson said it was "too early" to disclose what Bush might propose, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said yesterday that he expects the president to offer some health care proposals. Advisors have urged Bush to demonstrate a focus on domestic concerns, and a new health care agenda would be the first large domestic initiative that "goes well beyond the core programs Bush campaigned on in 2000," USA Today reports. Thompson said, "You ask people, they're very concerned about the war on Iraq. But they're more concerned about their health policy and whether or not they're going to have enough money to get health coverage" (Page, USA Today, 12/10). Thompson is promoting proposals that include the following:
- Recruit states to participate in demonstration projects to expand insurance coverage and limit the costs of medical liability.
- Create standards and provide funding for technologies that could reduce paperwork and improve medical care. For example, Thompson said the FDA will issue a rule requiring pharmaceutical companies to label medications with bar codes that could be linked to a bar code on a patient's wrist band, ensuring proper drug administration.
- Link a Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors to reforms intended to improve the program's long-term stability (USA Today, 12/10). Under the plan, the federal government would encourage Medicare beneficiaries to purchase private pharmacy discount cards and private insurance policies to protect against "catastrophic" prescription drug costs. The government would cover the cost of the cards and policies for low-income seniors; other seniors would have to pay out-of-pocket but would receive tax deductions (California Healthline, 12/9).