President Bush To Focus on Health Care, Increased Costs in State of the Union Address
Bush administration officials have indicated that the president's Jan. 31 State of the Union address will focus on curbing rising health care costs, among other health care issues, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. Bush officials -- "echoing hints Bush has provided in recent speeches" -- have outlined the president's health care agenda to be presented in the address, according to AP/Newsday.
Issues include raising the amount allowed to accumulate in existing health savings accounts; offering additional tax breaks for those who purchase private insurance on their own; establishing more portability for health insurance when people change jobs; and providing easier access to information regarding physician pricing and quality.
In addition, Bush also will propose increased efforts to adopt electronic medical records, a cap on noneconomic damages in malpractice verdicts and the ability for small businesses to pool the purchasing of health coverage across state lines, AP/Newsday reports.
Al Hubbard, chair of Bush's National Economic Council, said, "The American people are very, very frustrated with the health care system, for good reason," adding, "All we're doing is trying to give consumers the opportunity to be engaged in the process." He said, "It's not fair for people who feel like they can't leave their job or they'd lose their insurance. And it's not fair not to know what the quality of the providers are and what kind of pricing they're being charged for services."
According to the AP/Newsday, Bush "is hoping his agenda will help his party at the ballot box" in November, while some Democrats maintain that "the president is undertaking a campaign to transfer much of the cost of health care to the consumer, which discourages people -- particularly the poor -- from seeking care they need."
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said the president "continues to do the wrong thing on health care," adding, "This solution will actually make it worse" (Loven, AP/Long Island Newsday, 1/19).