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Bush Health Plan: "Taxing" Patients To Better Care?


President George Bush gives his State of The Union speech tonight and he's expected to focus a lot of what he says on domestic policy. One key element is a new health care plan aimed at expanding coverage through tax credits. The idea is to make health care a "free market good."

And the costs?--well that comes from money that might have gone to your care. Diana Furchtgott-Roth is from the Hudson Institute and Karen Davenport is director of health policy at the Center for America Progress. Both appeared on "Squaw Box" to discuss the President's proposal.

Before we get their opinions--here's a breakdown on the Bush proposal. The plan would give families a tax deduction on the first $15,000 in health costs ($7,500 for singles). Anything over the $15K would be taxed as income and that money would go to giving health care coverage to the uninsured (roughly 47 million in the U.S.). The amount "available' to the uninsured would be about $4.5k.

Davenport doesn't like the plan at all and says it won't do much for the uninsured. Basically-- she says it will actually reduce coverage for people who are now paying higher costs for health care. And for businesses--Davenport says the plan could end up reducing benefits they give to workers because of current high costs and subsequent taxes they would pay on after those costs.

Healthcare for All, Paid by You

Furchtgott-Roth on the other hand, calls the plan "revolutionary" and says it's just great at giving Americans the right to choose their coverage along with choosing their doctors. She says that when it comes to paying more taxes--that would affect only about 20% of current health plan payers. She says it's not going to hurt businesses and this is a chance to really help the millions of uninsured. Furchgott-Roth also "criticized" those who criticized the plan--saying Bush is trying to help the uninsured--and not getting enough credit for it.

The proof may be how Congress deals with the plan. Davenport says she doesn't think Congress will pass the proposal as it stands now.

FYI: family health care coverage in the U.S. currently costs an average of $11.5k to $13k per year. Health insurance tax breaks in the U.S. are worth some $147 billion a year. Bush makes his speech with some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, released yesterday found only 34 percent of respondents approved of Bush's job performance while 63 percent disapproved.