Tuesday, April 04, 2006

President Bush Discusses Health Care Initiatives from The Roosevelt Room

THE PRESIDENT: America needs a health care system that empowers patients to make rational and smart decisions for themselves and their families, a health care system in which the relationship between the patient and the provider are central, not a health care system where decisions are made by the federal government. Notice how I painted that into an either or? Did you hear me say we should eliminate military hospitals or Veterans Administration hospitals as those are run directly by the federal government?

What I left out is employers are bailing on health insurance and the government plans to join ‘em. Just last year Congress passed and I signed legislation that will boot 65,000 poor people off the Medicaid rolls. They will join the 5% or so of employed people tossed off their health insurance benefit as jobs are eliminated and switched to contract positions.

So we've been having a discussion here today about how to make sure our health care system meets certain objectives: one, empowering the patients; two, how do we have a system that helps control rising costs in health care? So, I am dusting off the same tired proposals I have harped on since 2002. During that time the ranks of the uninsured have swelled by some 4 million Americans. If enacted, they will not stem the flow of the rising ranks of the uninsured. And I do hope to add legions of underinsured to their numbers, which leads me to my “signature” strategerie.

And one of the interesting and innovative ways to do that is through health savings accounts. Health savings accounts are good for the uninsured, they're good for small businesses, they're good for larger corporations. Boy are they good for larger corporations and those folks, well let’s just say they donate lots of money. And it takes lots of money in the campaign trough these days to get elected. The people who allow me and other elected leaders to gorge at the money trough can save 30-40% on their health insurance benefit by switching to high deductible health plans.

And people around the table here have been sharing their experiences with how folks are saving money through health savings accounts. But they are rare, roughly 1 out of 10 people as 9 out of 10 contribute nothing to their HSA. And I would urge the small business owner or the individual who is concerned about his or her health care to take a look at a health savings account. Those of you uninsurable with a pre-existing condition, can expect to remain uninsured as HDHP’s don’t want you either. Note, that I am not making any projections as to the impact of my plans. I just tell you it’s a good deal and to go check it out. Roughly 1/3 of the uninsured have zero chance of buying a HDHP and funding their HSA. This equates to 16 million people.

How did I get my minions to draw up plans that won’t help 16 million voters? I had them lay the groundwork. Last fall, two studies were “released” that attributed the rise in the number of uninsureds to illegal immigrants. Heck, if they are here illegally we don’t want to do anything for them. So by painting the uninsured with the broad brush of illegal immigration, we remove any political will to address the problem. I won’t comment nor will Scott McClellan on who commissioned the faulty RAND Corp report. But we sure were thankful for their analysis and conclusions.

We talked about the importance of cost savings through these important products, but we also talked about how we can work with the United States Congress to strengthen them; to make them more appealing; to give people more choices in the marketplace, to say to the American people, we trust your judgment, we trust you to make the right decision for you and your families.

If you really think we trust the American people, you have been smoking something. I am proud that my administration is the most secretive one ever. My bureaucrats have been instructed not to answer questions, not to give out projections, to remain within the federal cone of silence. What we do trust, is that we can manipulate you. Like my saying my health care plans will strengthen the doctor patient relationship. Translated, it simply means you pay or you don’t go to the doctor. It will decimate the already fragile doctor patient relationships of so many Americans.

Those of you who have fond memories of the 1930’s will get to relive them. Doctors will begin collecting chickens from patients as payment for their services. The real trick will come when you need to be admitted to a hospital. My health care reforms will make hospital beds for the poor as scarce as hen’s teeth. There will still be plenty of beds for my base.

And insurance companies will continue to do well as they are the lifeblood of the health care system. Modernization of Medicare and Medicaid means contracting out government sponsored health insurance to the private sector. That fewer people can be treated is just part of the deal as those insurance companies need to cover their twice as high administrative costs and fuel their growing profit margins.

My health care reforms insure the health of insurance and for profit medicine companies. And if they are healthy so are we, as a rising tide lifts all boats. Those of you worried about our country’s response to a bird flu pandemic should ease your mind. The plans are in place to take care of all wealthy, insured politicians first. Everyone else will just have to get in line. With 44 million anti-virals and 80 million flu shots and 300 million citizens you better get in line early!

And so I want to thank you all for coming for this most interesting discussion. And I'll be glad to take a couple of questions.

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