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Bush Urges
Congress to Expand Health Coverage in Address

Bush Urges
Congress to Expand Health Coverage in Address

President George Bush addressed several health-related issues, including funding for global AIDS programs, in his final State of the Union address Monday night.

President George Bush addressed several health-related issues, including funding for global AIDS programs, in his final State of the Union address Monday night. In his speech Bush addressed the fact that millions of Americans lack health insurance by calling for health care reform and market competition, rather than government programs, to expand health insurance access. He also reintroduced one of his proposals that would provide tax deductions for Americans to purchase health insurance directly or through their employers.

Bush said both Republicans and Democrats "share a common goal: making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. The best way to achieve that goal is by expanding consumer choice, not government control. So I have proposed ending the bias in the tax code against those who do not get their health insurance through their employer. This one reform would put private coverage within reach for millions."

But he reiterated his opposition to creating a new government program or agency that would provide universal health coverage, saying that health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients and not "in the halls of Congress."

Bush also called on Congress to approve a five-year, $30 billion extension of his President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which provides prevention and treatment funds to 15 developing countries hard-hit by AIDS. When PEPFAR was launched five years ago it was funded at $3 billion per year at a total of $15 billion.

"America is leading the fight against disease," Bush said during the speech. "With your help, we are working to cut by half the number of malaria-related deaths in 15 African nations. And our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is treating 1.4 million people. We can bring healing and hope to many more. So I ask you to maintain the principles that have changed behavior and made this program a success. And I call on you to double our initial commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS by approving an additional $30 billion over the next five years."

Bush made no reference to funding for the federal Ryan White CARE Act, which funds HIV prevention, treatment, and support services throughout the country for HIV-positive Americans.

He did, however, reiterate his opposition to embryonic stem cell research and endorsed federal legislation to ban the "buying, selling, patenting, or cloning of human life."

Democrats blasted Bush's speech in their televised response to his State of the Union address.

"We know that we're stronger as a nation when our people have access to the highest-quality, most affordable health care; when our businesses can compete in the global marketplace without the burden of rising health care costs here at home," said Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius in the Democratic response.

She called on Bush to support increased funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program -- which Congress has twice passed and Bush has vetoed each time -- and to support Democratic plans to overhaul the nation's failing health care system. (Bob Adams, The Advocate)

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