Bush scales back healthcare initiatives

March 1, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The main Bush administration proposal for dealing with the high cost of healthcare and rising number of uninsured is to create a new commission. In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush called for a new bipartisan panel to propose changes that will equip Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to deal with the millions of baby boomers headed for retirement.

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The main Bush administration proposal for dealing with the high cost of healthcare and rising number of uninsured is to create a new commission. In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush called for a new bipartisan panel to propose changes that will equip Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to deal with the millions of baby boomers headed for retirement.

This reflected scaled-back administration efforts to expand access to healthcare for the uninsured and to make healthcare more affordable for everyone. It was not very long ago that another bipartisan Medicare commission hit an impasse on these same issues, and the White House Social Security reform plan attracted little support from a highly partisan Congress last year.

Noticeably absent from Bush's speech were any calls for tax credits to help all low-income individuals purchase health insurance, policies to allow Americans to deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses or any mentions of the new Medicare drug benefit.

HSAs, EHRs AT THE FOREFRONT

The centerpiece of the White House healthcare agenda is a number of proposals to expand health savings accounts. Advocates consider these central to broadening coverage choices and making consumers more efficient purchasers of healthcare; critics regard high-deductible plans as beneficial primarily to the rich and healthy and a way to allow employers to shift healthcare costs to workers.

Bush also backed further development of electronic health records (EHRs), a decision widely supported in the healthcare industry and other health IT initiatives, but the White House has been slow to finance these efforts, and the tedious work of establishing standards and interoperable systems will take years. Other initiatives include: