Papers, Columnists Weigh in on FY 2003 Budget Proposal
A number of newspapers and columnists have been offering their opinions in the past week about the health care components of President Bush's fiscal year 2003 budget proposal. The plan would allocate $300 billion over 10 years to overhaul Medicare, expand medical savings accounts and allocate $89 billion to offer tax credits to the uninsured to purchase coverage for the recently unemployed, among other proposals. It also would spend $5.9 billion to fight bioterrorism (California Healthline, 2/15). The following summarizes recent commentary on the health component of Bush's plan:
Detroit News: Although Bush "deserves credit" for addressing the increasing uninsured population and the demand for drug coverage under Medicare, his plan "does not introduce enough reforms" to ensure that federal health care spending is "more efficient," a Detroit News editorial states. For example, Bush's proposal for tax credits to purchase insurance "has some merit," but "stronger tax incentives" for small business owners should be considered to encourage them to offer health coverage, the News writes. The News concludes, "Bush's plan is a small step toward reform. But it would only be helpful if it begins a larger dialogue about cost containment and more efficient use of the government's health care dollars" (Detroit News, 2/18).
Houston Chronicle: Bush's plan includes "excellent ideas that should be thoroughly explored," including medical savings accounts and tax credits for the uninsured, a Houston Chronicle editorial states. However, because there are "no free lunches, or doctors," the "real question," the Chronicle asks, is "how all of these measures can be paid for" (Houston Chronicle, 2/16).
Investors' Business Daily: Some of Bush's health care proposals are "good and deserve enactment," as they are an attempt to address rising costs and the increasing number of uninsured by "increas[ing] consumer choice," an IBD editorial states. Medical savings accounts and tax credits to purchase health care would give patients "the power" in health care, which would "naturally hold prices down, as they do with other goods and services." However, Bush's drug plan for Medicare would cause costs to "explode." Therefore, the editorial recommends, "Bush must enlist market forces with tax incentives, not subsidies" when creating a Medicare drug benefit (Investors' Business Daily, 2/19).
- Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist: Bush's proposal to expand MSAs would allow Americans to choose health care plans that "meet their needs at affordable prices," Thomas writes in the Boston Herald. The plan, which Thomas calls "good policy," would increase competition among health plans, which would in turn improve quality, cut costs and reduce the "bureaucratic hassles" associated with health plans. Thomas also writes that because patients could pay for any treatment denied by a health plan with funds from their own account, the plan would "solve the problem inherent in" proposed patients' rights legislation (Thomas, Boston Herald, 2/16).
- Dr. Quentin Young, head of Physicians for A National Health Program: Bush's health care proposals "subordinat[e] the public health system to military priorities," Young, who also heads the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, writes in a Chicago Tribune opinion piece. He writes that Bush's budget "debilitat[es]" the public health system by moving funds out of successful programs. For example, $340 million would be cut from the CDC's budget for programs not devoted to fighting bioterrorism. Instead, Young writes, the public health system should be "developing defenses" against all health threats, including bioterrorism. Young concludes, "Do not let the system become simply an auxiliary to the military" (Young, Chicago Tribune, 2/17).
This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.