When President George W. Bush took the podium in January for his annual State of the Union speech, he waited a little over half an hour before he mentioned healthcare. But in stump speeches across the country before and after the address, the topic has come up more quickly and become a touchstone of domestic policy throughout his administration. Though the president has a five-point plan for healthcare, three policies have been out front: consumer-centric health plans, transparency and health information technology (See related stories, pp. 22, 34 and 78). The other two, association health plans and medical liability reform, have been brushed off in Congress, though at times narrowly so.
It's not an understatement to say that Bush's policies touch on every component of the healthcare process, from the way physicians deliver care to the way individuals are expected to seek them out and then pay for their services. Health savings accounts, which aim to give the individual more say over their own health decisions, and an increase in transparency that is expected to help them, intertwine in the president's plan. "HSAs can help us move toward a healthcare system that is no longer dominated by third-party payers to a system in which consumers make their own decisions," Bush said in a May speech to the American Hospital Association.
Bush has instructed Medicare to make price and quality data publicly available, a move he hopes will lead the industry by example.