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Home > Opinion-Editorials: 2002 and prior
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AFCM Reports: President Proposes MSA Expansion

Excerpts from President Bush's Health Care Speech
February 11, 2002
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

"The Medical College of Wisconsin represents the future of health care here and throughout our country. It's a fitting place to address the great opportunities and challenges that the future will bring our country.

Our health care system is in need of important reform, and on the verge of amazing discovery. We must seize the moment for the benefit of all Americans."

[Remarks thanking several politicians, comments on war against Islamic terrorists, removed]

"There are a lot of challenges we face. We fight a recession. I'm optimistic we'll recover. But one of the big challenges is our health care, and I like to put it this way.

We face a huge challenge of making sure that we're still the world's greatest health care system. That's our challenge: How do we maintain our edge? How do we make sure the American people get the best health care in the world?

And it starts by making sure that we attract the best and brightest of the medical profession. And that can start with the president saying, 'Thank you' for dedicating your lives to such a great calling. American appreciates the fact that you've chosen a profession that is so profound and so important. It is a model of service and excellence.''

And the achievements of our medical professionals set the standards for the entire world. Life expectancy in America today is eight years longer than it was in 1950, and 29 years longer than it was in 1900. That's a lot of progress. And for millions, those extra years are more active and more healthy than anybody could have imagined.

We're making great progress against many diseases, such as breast cancer and colon cancer and childhood leukemia. The death rate from coronary disease is down 40 percent since 1980. Our country leads the world in Nobel Prizes for science and medicine and in the invention of new drugs and medical devices.

I truly believe that this progress is one of America's greatest contributions to mankind. It is a tribute to the outstanding efforts of the medical profession and to a system of private medicine that encourages innovation and rewards hard work.

Yet our doctors and patients know that our system is far from perfect. Too many patients feel trapped by the system, with decisions about their health dictated by HMOs or government bureaucracies. Too many doctors feel buried in paperwork. I've heard it said that some doctors feel they don't practice medicine, they practice insurance.

At the same time, health care costs are rising sharply and many people worry they won't be able to afford the treatments they need.

Some procedures are overused, often as defense measures to avoid litigation.
And about 40 million Americans still have no health insurance at all.

We must reform health care in America. We must build a modern, innovative health care system that gives patients more options and fewer orders, and strengthens the doctor-patient relationship.

The government has got to take an active role in reform. Yet it's important that government's role is not to centralize nor is government's role to control the delivery of medicine.

Other nations have tried this route, and it's lead to long lines for treatment, low-quality care and lagging technologies. And for many patients, their experience with centralized government-controlled medicine leaves them somewhere else, often right here to America where they can get the treatment and care they need.

The role of government health reform is to fix a system where it's failing while preserving the quality and innovation of a private, patient-centered medical system. All reforms should be guided by some goals.

The first goal: All Americans should be able to choose a health care plan that meets their needs at affordable prices. When people have good choices, when people are given different options, health plans have to compete for business, which means higher quality and better coverage.

Most Americans get their health care coverage at work, yet higher costs are causing some employers to cut back on benefits, or insist that the employee pay more, especially if they want to choose their own doctor or to avoid the complications of managed care. Many families end up in a health plan whose monthly premium puts a strain on their budget. And when they require care, they find what they need really isn't fully covered.

So here's what I propose. I propose we give workers more choice. I propose we reform the system to make the system more individualized by creating personal health accounts. Instead of paying a large premium every month for services you may not use, I believe we ought to have an account that allows a person to pay a much smaller premium for major medical coverage, and then put the savings into a health account tax-free.

The money is your money. It's your money in the health account, not the government's money. And you can use it for whatever health care need that arises. If you don't use it, it's yours to keep. And for the more affordable premium, you also get catastrophic care; protection in case of serious illness.

The tendency for government is one size fits all. If part of reform is to restore the patient-doctor relation and to give patients more choices, we have to change the tax system to incur and allow for patients to make decisions that is in their best interest.

And I also propose to help workers get better and more affordable choices in health plans at work.

Now, some large companies, they're OK; you got some choice. But many small businesses are unable to afford health insurance. And so—and that's because there's not much purchasing power. A standalone small business does not have purchasing power in the marketplace; either they can't afford to cover or they have to allow their employees to settle on a high-premium, high-dollar single plan.

And so, what I propose is that we ought to allow employers to pool together through an industry association or perhaps a chamber of commerce, so that they can get the best deal for their workers, just as large corporations are allowed to do.

Too many workers get no coverage at all through their jobs. This is especially true among minorities or part-time employees and seasonal workers. For those with limited means, my budget will provide new credits to afford health coverage: up to $1,000 for an individual or $3,000 per family. And they won't have to wait for tax time to get these health credits. We'll make them immediately available for qualifying families, giving them the help they need when they need it.

And at the same time, we'll work with our nation's governors to create purchasing groups to negotiate with insurers for the people who use these health credits.

In other words, people who don't have insurance must be given incentive to purchase insurance, the states can help them pool in order to get decent coverage, but it's not a government program. In other words, we trust the people: The government incents individuals to make decisions in the marketplace. If the goal is to increase quality care by encouraging individual choice and a doctor-patient relationship, health credits is one way to help the uninsured do so."

This partial text is posted for educational purposes only.



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