President Bush Discusses Health Care Proposals in Speech
President Bush on Wednesday in a Washington, D.C., speech promoted his proposals to reduce health care costs and address the issue of the uninsured, the Los Angeles Times reports (Chen, Los Angeles Times, 1/29). The speech, which Bush made to about 200 small business owners and their employees, marked the third in five days that focused on his health care agenda, in large part as a response to "public opinion polls suggesting that problems with health care are a prime concern of voters," according to the Washington Post. Bush in his speech promoted "largely a repackaged collection of policies that the administration has advocated before," the Post reports (Goldstein, Washington Post, 1/29). The proposals, which Bush first outlined in his State of the Union address, include:
- A cap on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits;
- Increased use of new technologies to prevent medical errors;
- Refundable tax credits to help low-income residents purchase health insurance;
- A provision to allow small business to join together across state lines to form association health plans to negotiate lower health insurance premiums; and
- A tax deduction for the cost of premiums for high-deductible health coverage to encourage the use of health savings accounts, which allow individuals to save tax-free funds for future medical expenses.
Bush in his speech also said that the United States could reduce health care costs with additional community health centers, which provide primary care in rural and underserved urban areas, because uninsured residents would have to visit emergency rooms and hospitals for care. "It's more cost effective that people are able to go to these centers and not go to an emergency room, which is, by far, the most expensive way for somebody to get health care," Bush said. He added that the administration is "halfway to meeting a goal laid out when he took office -- creating 1,200 community health centers" by 2006, the Washington Times reports (Washington Times, 1/29). The United States had about 3,000 community health centers when Bush took office (Los Angeles Times, 1/29). Complete video of the Bush speech is available online in RealPlayer (C-SPAN, 1/28).
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) at a Senate hearing Wednesday "lambasted" the health care proposals Bush discussed in the speech, the Post reports. Kennedy said that the tax credits Bush proposed would not provide adequate funds to help most low-income residents purchase health insurance. He added that the HSAs that Bush proposed in large part would help "the healthy and wealthy" (Washington Post, 1/29). Gary Claxton, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that "it was unknown whether HSAs alone would increase affordability" of health care, adding that many low-income residents "probably would not be able to afford to set up such funds," the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 1/29).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.