Many Americans who watched President Bush's speech tonight might have wondered how he could possibly tout new ideas about health care, given his record. After all, he orchestrated a gigantic bureaucratic nightmare with his Medicare Prescription Drug plan, which has left seniors without their prescriptions and drug companies grinning at their own multi-billion dollar good fortune. More than six million Americans have become uninsured during the Bush presidency. My own state of California leads the nation with the largest number of people without health care -- 7.1 million people.
But rather than offer comprehensive ideas that solve the crisis, the President repackaged tired proposals that will not provide Americans with affordable health coverage in the first place -- and could even, in some cases, drive the cost of health coverage up.
Research has shown that one of those proposals, Association Health Plans, would ultimately reduce health benefits for up to 8 million people, and could eliminate health coverage entirely for another 1 million, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). With an astounding 46 million Americans already uninsured, this would be a catastrophic move.
Like his failed Social Security plan, the President's call for Association Health Plans represents a move towards privatization. Americans wholeheartedly responded to Bush's threat to their retirement security -- and rejected the Bush privatization plan before it saw daylight. Again, I believe the more Americans know what the President is calling for the more they will reject the idea of "go it alone" health care that does nothing to protect them and their families.
Americans need a real health care plan that provides comprehensive insurance programs for everyone. We also need to contain costs -- because Americans currently devote 15% of our GDP to health care -- 2.5 times more per capita than the average of other wealthy nations on health care who provide health care to all their citizens. We need to shift the burden of these skyrocketing costs from consumers and small businesses and make health care work for working people.