Democratic presidential candidates and members of Congress criticized the healthcare proposals in President Bush's State of the Union address as an inadequate solution to a problem that has grown during Bush's presidency. Bush spent four minutes or so of his 54-minute address Tuesday on healthcare and the problem of the uninsured in particular. He proposed tax credits to help individuals and families buy insurance; urged Congress to approve association health plans to allow small businesses to leverage lower premiums; and backed the expansion of medical savings accounts, known as MSAs, to encourage people to buy catastrophic-care coverage. Many provider groups, including the Federation of American Hospitals, reacted positively to Bush's proposal; however, the Catholic Health Association urged more significant action.
The number of uninsured has grown by 3.8 million people since Bush took office, and tax cuts are no solution, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said in the Democratic response to Bush's speech. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who placed third in this week's Democratic presidential caucuses in Iowa, said in a news release, "I wish this president could learn from our example in Vermont, where we delivered real results." In his address, Bush also identified medical liability reform as a priority and mentioned the importance of implementing computerized medical records to avoid errors but did not say how the federal government would encourage adoption. -- by Jeff Tieman