Bush’s bet­ter health-care pol­icy

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

If a lib­eral pres­i­dent pro­posed re­form­ing the tax code to give work­ing fam­i­lies a big­ger tax break for health care than cor­po­ra­tions and giv­ing poor fam­i­lies di­rect as­sis­tance to buy health care to boot, the New York Times and rest of the main­stream me­dia would be chok­ing back tears as it praised an ini­tia­tive that was so bold in its com­pas­sion and de­sire for fair­ness.

But this pro­posal to make the tax code fair and health care af­ford­able comes from Pres­i­dent Bush, with a Congress un­der Demo­cratic con­trol in the run to a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year. So it will be at­tacked for fail­ing to be ev­ery­thing that ev­ery­one else’s pro­posal is not.

The fact is, the Bush plan slices through the thicket of pol­icy pro­pos­als — all of which boil down to dump­ing more peo­ple into state Med­i­caid pro­grams — and gives the self em­ployed and unin­sured, from the sin­gle mom who cuts hair to the elec­tri­cian start­ing his own busi­ness, a tax break of about $3,800 to buy health care. Un­der the pres­i­dent’s plan, mil­lions of work­ing-class and mid­dle- class fam­i­lies could buy health care with pre­tax dol­lars. It only comes at the ex­pense of the rich­est health plans of top CEOs. Even then, those want­ing to avoid a tax bite at that level can set up a health­sav­ings ac­count.

Ac­cord­ing to a study by the Ur­ban In­sti­tute, 44 per­cent of peo­ple with­out health care don’t have it be­cause they don’t want to spend the money or be­cause they don’t sign up for gov­ern­ment-run health plans even when el­i­gi­ble. Add the Bush tax-break money to re­cent in­creases in con­tri­bu­tions peo­ple can now make to health-sav­ings ac­counts and an­other Bush pro­posal to al­low the peo­ple to buy private health plans at group rates and the af­ford­abil­ity is­sue is largely solved.

It’s not the en­tire an­swer, of course. Us­ing ex­ist­ing monies to fund health care for chil­dren as tax cred­its for in­sur­ance would help, too. But you won’t find the pres­i­dent’s crit­ics sup­port­ing his fair and com­pas­sion­ate plan. Their so­lu­tion, as the em­ployer-based health-care sys­tem fal­ters, is to ex­pand Med­i­caid. That’s like forc­ing peo­ple into the med­i­cal equiv­a­lent of pub­lic hous­ing.

Many op­po­nents of the pres­i­dent’s pro­posal sup­port ex­pan­sion of gov­ern­ment-run health plans be­cause they don’t be­lieve Amer­i­cans, when given the money and free­dom to choose their own health care, will wind up bet­ter off. Rather, they be­lieve we, the peo­ple, will mess it up be­cause we’re too stupid or poor or old to make de­ci­sions that are in our best in­ter­ests.

We heard the same wail­ings and warn­ings when the pres­i­dent re­formed Medi­care. Sen. Barack Obama and oth­ers may be­lieve hope is au­da­cious, but it’s Pres­i­dent Bush who be­lieves and has demon­strated that it cre­ates bet­ter health care for ev­ery Amer­i­can.

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