Bush says Kerry would have government take over health care decision making
Associated Press Writer
MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) – President Bush on Monday denounced Democrat John Kerry’s health care proposal as a government takeover that would trigger tax hikes.
“We have a difference of opinion in this campaign,” Bush told supporters in western Michigan. “I’m running against a fellow who has got a massive, complicated blueprint to have our government take over the decision-making in health care.
“Not only is his plan going to increase the power of bureaucrats in your life, but he can’t pay for it unless he raises your taxes.”
The crowd booed.
While Bush leads Kerry in the polls when voters are asked who would keep the country safe, the president’s numbers aren’t as favorable when it comes to domestic matters. A recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll found 51 percent of registered voters disapproving of how Bush is handling such issues as health care, education and the environment.
Sitting on stage with residents from Grand Rapids, Rockford and Muskegon, Bush outlined his health care ideas.
He said he wants small businesses to be allowed to pool resources to buy health insurance at discounts available to large companies. He also favors expanding health saving accounts and plans to propose a tax credit to help poor families and individuals buy coverage. Further, he wants to ensure that each of America’s poorest communities has a health center to serve the underprivileged.
In addition, Bush has called for a medical liability overhaul that he says would speed damage awards to those injured through malpractice and help keep insurance premiums within the reach of good doctors. He rarely misses an opportunity on the campaign trail to note that Kerry’s running mate, Sen. John Edwards, earned millions as a trial attorney before turning to politics.
Responding to Bush’s comments Monday, Kerry-Edwards spokesman Phil Singer said, “While health insurance and prescription drugs have set record prices during the last four years, George Bush has taken money from drug and insurance companies hand over fist, making their profits the priority when he should have been focusing on the needs of everyday Americans struggling to pay for their insurance and prescriptions.”
Kerry worked last week to turn the campaign focus to health care issues. At a round-table discussion in Des Moines, Iowa, he cited a new report showing a double-digit increase in insurance premiums for the fourth year in a row. He also noted that monthly premiums for the part of Medicare that pays for doctor visits and most other non-hospital expenses is going up 17 percent.
Kerry says he wants to help more businesses offer health care by requiring the federal government to pick up 75 percent of catastrophic health care costs, a plan that his campaign estimates will lower premiums by an average of 10 percent.
The Massachusetts senator would give small businesses a tax credit to help them bear the cost of health insurance. Kerry also wants to let people purchase lower cost drugs from Canada, and he has called on Bush to back this idea.
It’s an issue that plays well in the northern battleground states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan where busloads of people regularly travel to Canada to fill their prescriptions.
The administration has been studying drug importation, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said last week it probably will not come up for a vote in the Senate this year.
Bush’s speech in Muskegon was the first stop on two bus trips, focusing on health care, that the president will take this week in the Midwest. He’ll be in Minnesota on Thursday.
The president didn’t venture far into Muskegon County, which leans Democratic. His one-hour event, dubbed “Focus on Health with President Bush,” was held in the open air in a hangar at the local airport.
He left from there to attend rallies in Holland, where voters are more supportive of Republican candidates, and Battle Creek, a swing area of the state, which Bush lost to Al Gore in 2000.