President Bush's 2005 budget proposal -- and its call for spending $72 billion over the next 10 years to expand health coverage -- didn't impress at least some advocates for the uninsured. Last year Bush called for spending $89 billion over 10 years for health coverage. "We are concerned that there are fewer dollars in this budget than last year's for the uninsured at a time when the number of uninsured is increasing," said Rev. Michael Place, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association. Making healthcare more affordable tops Bush's six-point economic growth plan. In a news conference today, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said that administration initiatives would extend coverage to roughly 4.5 million uninsured people. He did not specify a timeline. Some 43.6 million Americans were uninsured in 2002, according to the Census Bureau's most recent estimate.
Medicare outlays under the president's budget plan would reach $294.4 billion in fiscal 2005, up from an estimated $270.4 billion in fiscal 2004. That includes $753 million to implement the Medicare reform law; $218 million to expand community health centers; $50 million to fund state and regional projects on new information technology; and $40 million in new funds for nurse and physician training in underserved areas. Total federal spending of $2.4 trillion would result in a fiscal 2005 deficit of $364 billion, the administration said. -- by Jeff Tieman