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. 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)

Tags: Health, Health

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