G. W. Bush finally speaks on health care
Apparently flushed out of his silence by concerns that health care may become an issue after all in the 2000 election (and no doubt greatly aided in this opinion by the unrelenting pressure brought to bear by YourDoctorintheFamily.com), George W. Bush this week (the week of April 10) began what promised to be a series of health care policy statements.
On April 10, Gov. Bush proposed a $41.6 billion program of tax credits, tax incentives, and vouchers aimed at helping lower income Americans to buy health insurance and housing. The next day he proposed an additional $4.3 billion to expand health care services to rural and inner city areas. Bush's proposals also include freeing Medical Savings Accounts from the regulatory constraints that now stifle their adoption, and would allow those with flexible savings accounts to roll over their unspent health care funds at the end of the year (presently, any unspent money is vaporized.)
In making his policy proposals, Bush explicitly endorsed the commitment our society made many years ago "to provide a safety net to those in the most desperate circumstances - a safety net that includes income support, housing assistance, and health services."
Characteristically, the means by which Bush proposes to shore up the health services end of this commitment is through incentives that promote personal choice, and that provide for the participation of private insurance companies. Aside from providing tax incentives and vouchers, the government would have little to do in fulfilling these initiatives. In contrast, Gore's proposals steadfastly increase the direct participation of government in citizens' health care.
Am-Bushed: Bush, however, made the mistake of pre-announcing his health care policy speeches. Gore and his Clintonian allies over at the New York Times were laying for him.
The front page of the NY Times, the day after Bush's major health care policy statement, described not what Bush had to say, but instead the deplorable state of public health in Bush's state of Texas - especially in the cities and towns bordering Mexico. The conditions there are indeed bad. There are high rates of infectious diseases - such as rheumatic fever and tuberculosis - that are seen in few other places in the United States. And Bush can be faulted for not making the improvement of such health conditions a priority of his governorship. Responding to the NY Times article, Gore said, "How can we believe what he says he would do nationally when we see what he actually has done as governor?"
Bush's health care proposals are actually fairly reasonable, given the constraints under which he operates as a Gekkonian. Any real solution to the health care crisis ( including that proposed by YourDoctorintheFamily.com - see Devising a methodology) will involve giving individuals more responsibility for making their own choices. And Bush's proposals begin to do that.
The political strategy of the Clintonians is also characteristic. Gore and the Times have little to say about the substance of Bush's statements. Instead, they question his right to have any opinion whatsoever on health care, since he comes from Texas.
Public health in certain parts of Texas certainly sound deplorable. But they've been deplorable for generations, even during the recent administration of Gore-supporter Anne Richards. Bush may be faulted for not taking on Texan public health as his personal gubernatorial crusade, but he's certainly not the first governor to fail to do so.
Further, the health condition of the Texan border communities are related to poor water and sewage utilities along the border, and apparently cannot be solved without the full cooperation of the Mexican government. (The Mexican government says, not unreasonably, that it would like to help, but that the conditions at the Texas border are actually far better than in other areas of Mexico, and so carry a relatively low priority.) This is to some degree a matter of international policy as well as state policy. Where, Bush might ask, was the Clinton-Gore administration for the last 8 years?
Anyway, it seems to DrRich that there's plenty of blame to go around regarding public health at the Texas-Mexico border. And while Bush ought to bear some of the responsibility, that responsibility ought not to render him ineligible to formulate a policy on health care. After all, he might (especially if the stock market crash occurring at this very moment persists through the summer, thus ruining the "good economy" that would virtually guarantee a Gore victory) become our next president. Some of us might want him to give serious thought to developing a health care policy, as lame as a Gekkonian policy is bound to be.
We need a vigorous debate on health care this year. Neither candidate should be rendered ineligible to participate in this debate, especially not by the press.
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