Monday :: Jan 23, 2006

Remind Voters In 2006 That Bush Has Failed On Health Care

by Steve

I've said that eight years ago they campaigned on prescription drugs for seniors. And four years ago they campaigned on getting prescription drugs for seniors. And now they're campaigning on getting prescription drugs for seniors. It seems like they can't get it done.
--Bush, taunting Gore for not getting Medicare drug coverage from GOP Congresses

You can see from the above taunt that W hurled at Al Gore during one of their debates in 2000 that the GOP blamed the Clinton Administration for not doing anything to extend drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries during the 1990’s. Well, it has now been five long years and one budget busting, corporate welfare-laden, donut hole Medicare Part D disaster later. And one can ask the same question of this White House when it comes to making health coverage and insurance available to the uninsured: what have you done in five years Mr. Bush to deal with the plight of the uninsured, one of the major reasons for the high cost of health care and our broken health care system in this country. A piece in the Los Angeles Times this morning tells us that Mr. Bush will be trotting out the same tired, going-nowhere proposals this year in his SOTU. Simply put, the man is guilty of the same failings he accused Gore of over five years ago.

So what exactly will Bush trot out again to fix our health care system, five years into his administration?

President Bush is preparing to unveil a series of proposals intended to make the nation's healthcare system more efficient, but he is likely to revive a bitter debate — begun last year over Social Security — about how much of life's biggest risks Americans should bear on their own.
Although many of the proposals, such as limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, are ones the president has failed to get through Congress, he plans to unveil new initiatives as part of his vision for reshaping U.S. healthcare policy, aides and advisors said.

And will any of these proposals actually mean anything of significance to those without insurance now, who can't afford to pay health insurance premiums let alone their fuel bills in an environment where inflation is outpacing wage gains? Or is this just another "feed the base and screw everybody else" exercise by Bush?

Is the pope a Catholic?

Among the possible initiatives: offering additional tax breaks for the use of Health Savings Accounts, and making most out-of-pocket medical spending by individuals tax-deductible. Currently, individuals must spend 7.5% of their annual incomes on healthcare before they qualify for an income tax deduction.
Bush's supporters say that the changes would help tame rocketing medical costs by encouraging people to buy their own healthcare insurance and become smarter shoppers, rather than relying on employers or government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to cover their health costs.
Critics argue that Bush's expected proposals would undermine the employer-provided health insurance system that covers most working Americans. And, they say, it would encourage them to switch to the Bush-authored Health Savings Accounts, established in 2003, under which they would bear more of the financial risks of illness and injury.
"We may be looking at the start of a fundamental shift in what we mean by health insurance, from a system where we share risks to one where it's up to individuals to make their own deals and bear their own risks," said Drew E. Altman, president of the nonpartisan California-based Kaiser Family Foundation.
"The danger," Altman said, "is that this new arrangement could work out very well for some people, especially the young, the healthy and the affluent, but be very bad for the health system as a whole."
The Health Savings Accounts, known as HSAs, are designed to encourage people to cover a substantial portion of their healthcare costs by opening tax-advantaged accounts from which they can pay routine medical expenses. The account must be paired with a high-deductible insurance policy to cover catastrophic medical costs.
The theory behind the accounts is that people who pay more of their own costs become better consumers and less likely to demand unnecessary care. Proponents say the accounts would encourage people who have no insurance to buy at least some coverage.
Detractors fear that the accounts will attract only the healthiest Americans, leaving traditional employer-provided plans with people who have the highest health costs.

That’s right. We’re back to the Social Security argument of an ownership society where individuals shoulder the burden themselves and the wealthy and corporations, as well as the government eventually, step out of the game. In fact, conservatives feel that people are over-insured now, and should take on more risk themselves. As the story notes however, the public feels more threatened about losing health care and the rising cost of health care than they ever have. Yet none of these proposals would do anything to expand coverage to more people, and expanded tax breaks for HSAs only benefit the wealthy, not the working middle class or lower income groups that cannot afford to buy their own policies now.

It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the man who thinks everyone should be responsible for, and make their own health care decisions has been getting his health care from the government since 1994 and will get it for the rest of his life. And since Bush appears ready to make health care his 2006 version of what he tried last year on Social Security, Democrats should be ready for the SOTU by ramping up reminders of the Bush privatization effort from last year and tie that into a campaign that says “Last year, he went after your Social Security. This year, it’s health care.” Simple, but effective. And again, Democrats need to replay the taunt from the 2000 debate and remind voters that Bush has had five years to do something to expand coverage and has done nothing, when he could have used the existing system as both Dean and Kerry suggested in 2004 to expand coverage.

On a day when Ford announced 30,000 job cuts in North America, especially in Red State America, Bush could have endorsed the suggestion by Barack Obama to make a grand bargain with the auto industry, whereby the federal government would assume the retiree health care costs of the Big Three in exchange for a crash conversion program by Detroit to fleets of alternate energy vehicles. For a fraction of the amount of money that Bush spends in Iraq in several months, Obama would have the federal government pick up the tab for Detroit’s retiree health care costs over the next five years, as long as the Big Three directed half of those savings into making more fuel efficient fleets. But no such big thinking comes from this White House, which is more interested in tax breaks for the wealthy and undermining the current system than they are in expanding coverage and helping the economy here at home.

And any effort to push the automakers towards making more alternative fuel vehicles will only create more economic growth for states that stop waiting for the Bush Administration and undertake reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions themselves, according to two new studies.

It is not a matter of wallet; it is a matter of will. By the time Bush leaves office, this country will have wasted eight years in doing nothing to make our economy more energy efficient and independent of foreign threats, nor will we have made any real progress in extending health care coverage to the uninsured or made insurance more affordable. All we will have is eight years of rhetoric and a failed corporate boondoggle known as the Medicare Part D program. And Democrats should ramp up a program all this year to remind voters of this administration’s abdication of responsibility.

Steve :: 10:36 AM :: Comments (12) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!