GEORGE W. BUSH: Details Plans for Long Term Care
Republican presidential hopeful Texas Gov. George W. Bush proposed a series of tax incentives designed to encourage people to purchase long term health insurance and ease the burden on people caring for elderly patients at home, the AP/Washington Times reports. "My goal is to make long term care available and affordable instead of a path to financial ruin. We have a system today where a person goes into a nursing home and quickly consumes their life savings," Bush said (5/11). Under his plan, expected to cost $7.4 billion over five years, people of any age who buy insurance for extended nursing-home stays not covered by Medicare or other policies could fully deduct the annual premium from their taxes. People with elderly dependents at home could also claim a $2,750 tax deduction. Announced at a retirement center in Davenport, Iowa, experts cite Bush's proposal as an attempt to show that the candidate is "paying heed to health care and to elderly people," a key voting group in the fall election. Bush was also "clearly trying to challenge" recent attacks by likely Democratic rival Vice President Al Gore who asserted that he has "more thoughtful and responsible ideas" than Bush on health care and Social Security (Bruni, New York Times, 5/11). With the Baby Boomer generation nearing retirement, these issues have emerged as a major point of contention between the candidates and are expected to play an important role in November (Balz/Connolly, Washington Post, 5/11).
Always a Critic
Responding for the Gore campaign, HHS Secretary Donna Shalala called the Bush plan "a day late and a dollar short," a meager tax break "to pay for lousy long term care insurance" (Washington Times, 5/11). "There's no way ... that he can pay for this. It's an empty promise," she said, citing Bush's proposed $483 billion, five-year tax cut. She added that the health care plan "did nothing to address the flaws of many of the policies on the market" and was "nowhere near as generous" as the Vice President's plan. According to Joshua Wiener of the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., more than 40% of America's seniors have annual incomes less than $20,000, and these people would be unable to afford long term care under the Bush proposal. "This is basically for the upper-middle class elderly," he said (New York Times, 5/11). Pat Luby, a legislative representative for the AARP, agrees that the plan "does not go far enough," although he conceded, "It's better than nothing" (Miller, Los Angeles Times, 5/11).