President Bush Reiterates Health Care Proposals in Tennessee Speech
President Bush on Wednesday "took his upbeat message on the road" and reiterated his health care proposals in a "reprise" of his State of the Union address in Nashville, Tenn., the New York Times reports. Although Bush "rushed through a list of proposals on health care," he promised to address problems with the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, which he did not mention in his address on Tuesday, the Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 2/2).
Bush also said that the future financial problems with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security require "a new attitude" in Washington, D.C., adding, "I want the Democrats on Capitol Hill to hear loud and clear, I want a bipartisan solution on mandatory and entitlement spending for the sake of a future generation of Americans" (Koffler, CongressDaily, 2/1). In addition, Bush reiterated his call for legislation that would cap damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, adding, "It's time for those senators who are blocking that bill, those senators who are representing the trial lawyers of America, to understand the damage they are doing to the health care industry of this country."
Meanwhile, Bush advisers in Washington, D.C., "set forth a more detailed case" for his proposal to expand health savings accounts "as a way for people to squirrel away money for their medical needs," the Times reports. According to Allan Hubbard, a senior Bush economic adviser, HSAs could help low-income U.S. residents because the high-deductible health plans associated with the accounts are less expensive than traditional health insurance. He said, "Some people say, 'Well HSAs are just for the rich and the well,'" adding, "As it turns out, of the three million people who have taken up HSAs, 37% were previously uninsured, and 40% earn less than $50,000 a year."
However, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) called HSAs "a windfall for the wealthy" that "will make life harder for ordinary Americans" (New York Times, 2/2).
In related news, several newspapers recently examined some of the health care proposals that Bush announced in his State of the Union address. Summaries appear below.
CQ HealthBeat: CQ HealthBeat on Wednesday examined the debate over the "ambitious" proposal for HSAs, which "represents the administration's strongest push yet to convince employers and workers to embrace" HSAs "as a way to get more for their health care dollar." According to CQ HealthBeat, Democrats said they are "confident they could defeat the Bush plan" (Carey/Rooney, CQ HealthBeat, 2/1).
Los Angeles Times: The Times on Thursday examined how "a costly White House proposal to provide poor families with tax credits toward the purchase of medical insurance" is "no longer available" because "administration officials have quietly revamped the measure" to require that "low-income families will be eligible for the credit only if they" enroll in high-deductible health plans associated with HSAs. According to the Times, the "administration's original low-income tax credit, which it ... proposed repeatedly in recent years" would have provided $1,000 and $3,000 to individuals with annual incomes of $15,000 or less and to families with annual incomes of $25,000 or less to help cover the cost of traditional health insurance (Gosselin, Los Angeles Times, 2/2).
Wall Street Journal: The Journal on Thursday examined the advantages and disadvantages of HSAs. According to the Journal, "more consumers may have to decide whether HSAs are the right option for them" as Bush "moves to encourage growth" of the accounts (Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal, 2/2).
Washington Post: The Post on Thursday examined how a Bush proposal to establish a "tax credit for people with modest incomes to buy insurance if they could not get it through their jobs" was "nowhere to be found" in his State of the Union address. According to the Post, Bush "recommended a far more modest tax credit only for people" who enroll in high-deductible health plans associated with HSAs and "dropped a plan to allow Americans to deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses" in favor of "allowing only low-income people" with HSAs to deduct such expenses (Baker/Babington, Washington Post, 2/2).
- USA Today: USA Today on Thursday examined potential problems with Bush proposals to expand HSAs and the portability of health insurance. The proposals are "aimed at controlling costs and helping more people afford health care," but "it isn't clear how some of the proposals would work," USA Today reports (Appleby, USA Today, 2/2).
Several broadcast programs reported on health care issues related to the State of the Union address:
- APM's "Marketplace": The segment reports on HSAs and includes comments from Bush; Regina Herzlinger, professor at Harvard Business School; Brad Holmes, vice president of the health care group at Forrester Research; Hubert Jolly, vice president at CitiGroup; Dan Perrin, publisher of HSA Insider; and John Prince, CEO of Exante Bank (Palmer, "Marketplace," APM, 2/1). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment reports on HSAs and includes comments from Robert Moffitt, director of health policy studies at the Heritage Foundation; Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA; and U.S. residents who have HSAs (Bazell, "Nightly News," NBC, 2/1). A transcript of the segment is available online. The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.
- NPR's "News & Notes with Ed Gordon": The segment includes comments from Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (Gordon, "News & Notes with Ed Gordon," NPR, 2/1). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- PBS' "Tavis Smiley Show": The segment includes an interview with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), founder of the Center for Health Transformation (Smiley, "Tavis Smiley Show," PBS, 1/30). A transcript of the interview is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- WAMU's "The Diane Rehm Show": The first hour of the NPR-syndicated show on Thursday is scheduled to include a discussion of Bush health care proposals. Guests on the program are scheduled to include Glenn Hubbard, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and dean of Columbia Business School; Pollack; and Julie Rovner, health policy correspondent for NPR (Rehm, "The Diane Rehm Show," WAMU, 2/2). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media after the broadcast.