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Bush lays out his health care agenda

President Bush
Bush: "We must reform health care in America."  

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CNN) -- President Bush outlined his health care agenda Monday in a speech designed to frame the administration's views on what could be a key issue in the congressional midterm elections later this year.

With control of both houses of Congress in the balance in the November elections, debate is expected on subjects ranging from HMO reform and prescription drug benefits for the elderly to medical research and federal support of community health care centers that serve low-income Americans.

Speaking at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Bush laid out a series of proposals he has made in the past and urged Congress to take action on them this year.

"We must reform health care in America. We must build a modern, innovative health care system that give patients more options and fewer orders and strengthens the doctor-patient relationship," Bush said.

Bush used his speech to:

In a speech at the Medical College of Wisconsin, President Bush lays out his agenda for health care legislation (February 11)

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On the Scene: John King: Bush outlines health care plan 

  • Urge Congress to bridge partisan and other differences to pass a patients' bill of rights this year.
  • Recommend adoption of a prescription drug benefit for elderly Americans, an issue that has sparked broad disagreements between the administration and many members of Congress.
  • Encourage Congress to use tax credits as incentives for employers and individuals to purchase health insurance. Bush favors a $1,000 tax credit for individuals and up to $3,000 for families who purchase their own health insurance.
  • Bush also discussed budget initiatives dealing with health care, such as his proposal to open 1,200 new community health care centers over the next five years and to add more than $2 billion to combat bioterrorism.
  • At the same time, the president warned against the government playing too large a role in health care, a significant point of disagreement with Democrats, who generally favor expanding existing federal programs.

    Bush stressed his belief that the government's role should be to support "a system of private medicine that encourages innovation and rewards hard work" and to take steps to discourage costly litigation.

    "It's important that government's role is not to centralize, nor is government's role to control the delivery of medicine," Bush said.

    "Other nations have taken this route, and it's led to long lines for treatment, low-quality care and lagging technologies."

    The health care speech was part of a White House effort to flesh out Bush's views on issues that his State of the Union address touched on only briefly because of its heavy focus on the war on terrorism, homeland security and the U.S. economy.

    Later Monday, Bush was scheduled to attend a $1 million fund-raiser for Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum, a fellow Republican.

    Back in Washington on Tuesday, the president will shift his focus to the problem of drug use.

    Bush will accept the annual report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, aides said, and he was expected to make remarks that focused heavily on health care, treatment and education efforts he considers necessary to reduce demand for drugs in the United States.

    -- CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.




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