President Bush Discusses Health Care Proposals in Campaign Speech
Speaking before small business owners at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, President Bush on Tuesday discussed his health care initiatives designed to lower the cost of benefits for employers and create jobs, the AP/Raleigh News & Observer reports (Lindlaw, AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 3/17). Bush emphasized the option of using health savings accounts, which were established under the Medicare prescription drug law, to help pay for the costs of health care. He also called for medical malpractice caps to eliminate "junk lawsuits" and urged Congress to allow for the creation of association health plans, which allow small businesses to form health insurance pools to negotiate insurance rates (CongressDaily, 3/16). During the "conversation on health care" -- one in a series of scheduled "conversations" the administration has scheduled to "provide a person-on-the-street echo for Bush's policies" -- Bush surrounded himself with five small-business owners and focused on employers' struggle to provide health insurance to workers, "framing the health insurance issue primarily as one that affects unemployment," the AP/News & Observer reports. He did not mention the 43 million uninsured U.S. residents (AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 3/17). Complete video of Bush's "Conversation on Health Care Access" Tuesday is available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media through C-SPAN.
Health care is an issue that "offers one of the most dramatic contrasts" between Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Kerry's plan would provide health care tax credits to small businesses; have the federal government pay 75% of insured individuals' health care costs that exceed $50,000 to reduce costs to businesses and employees; extend Medicaid coverage; transfer Medicaid expenses to the federal government; and allow workers to purchase health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Kenneth Thorpe, a Clinton administration health care official affiliated with Emory University, estimates that Bush's proposal would cost $60 billion over 10 years and expand coverage to two million to three million people. He estimates that Kerry's plan would cost $895 billion over 10 years and cover 26.7 million currently uninsured people (Douglas, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/17). CNN's "Inside Politics" on Monday discussed the presidential race, including health care and Medicare reform plans from Bush and Kerry, with Democratic strategist Kiki McLean and Republican strategist Greg Mueller (Crowley, "Inside Politics," CNN, 3/15). The complete transcript is available online.
At a victory party in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, Kerry announced that with a win in the Illinois primary, he has secured enough delegates to become the Democratic presidential nominee, the Washington Times reports. With 67% of the Illinois precincts reporting, Kerry received 71% of votes, giving him commitments from 2,252 delegates. To secure the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer, 2,162 delegates are needed. Some delegate count estimates last week had given Kerry enough delegates to secure the nomination, but the Kerry campaign wanted to be sure of the tally before making its announcement. "This night marks the opening of the general election debate about the direction of our country," Kerry said. He also criticized the Bush administration for its failure to solve the "health care crisis," among other issues (Dinan, Washington Times, 3/17).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.