Senators Seek White House Cooperation on Health Coverage
A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday asked President Bush to work with them on a proposal to expand health insurance to all U.S. residents, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the AP/Chronicle, Bush, "hoping to generate some positive momentum" for his domestic agenda, has accepted the offer.
In a letter to Bush, the senators -- Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) -- wrote that they have developed a broad outline for a proposal that would seek to expand affordable health insurance to all residents and to protect public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
The proposal also would seek to revise federal tax rules for health insurance because the rules favor higher-income residents and promote inefficiency, Wyden said. However, he said the senators have not endorsed the health insurance proposal that Bush announced last month in his State of the Union address (Freking, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/13).
The senators wrote, "Further delay is unacceptable as costs continue to skyrocket, our population ages, and chronic illness increases. In addition, our businesses are at a severe disadvantage when their competitors in the global market get health care for 'free.'"
Allan Hubbard, director of the National Economic Council, said "We agree with these senators -- we want to fix health care now" (Reuters/Washington Post, 2/13).
White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said that Bush hopes to discuss the proposal with the senators in the near future (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/13).
In related news, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) during a health policy conference in Washington on Tuesday "outlined the elements he believes should be contained in a package to extend health coverage to all Americans," The Hill reports.
During the conference, Baucus suggested the creation of large insurance pools. Baucus said, "The season for a real debate on health care reform is coming and it is long overdue. My job as chairman of the Finance Committee is to prepare Congress for this season of reform. What we need now is an extensive and thoughtful dialogue, debate discussion -- whatever -- in Washington. For health care, the season of incremental change is coming to an end."
According to The Hill, "Baucus could use his perch as chairman to act as gatekeeper of the proposals emerging from colleagues" such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
In response to a question about whether he had reached common ground with potential Democratic presidential candidates Clinton, Obama or former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) on their health care proposals, Baucus said, "Not yet" (Young, The Hill, 2/14).