February 6, 2006
Profile of a lack of vision: Bush addresses health care in the State of the Union
"As a nurse, I am appalled at President Bush's lack of vision in resolving our nation's health care crisis. Simply providing tax breaks to those who can already afford health care will make the problem worse. We need common-sense solutions that reduce costs and increase access to comprehensive health care services." Judy Lebens, Hillsboro.
Joe Mahoney and the Oregon Action Health Care committee joined together to watch the President deliver his fifth State of the Union address. Prior to the speech, aides said it would focus on health care. So the group waited, hoping to hear a plan to reduce the cost of health care and increase access. They hoped the President would announce plans to fix the troubled Medicare Prescription Drug plan. Instead, after 46 minutes they heard less than a minute on health care.
Retired mental health provider, John Estelle of Salem wasn't surprised by what he heard, "What else should we expect from the people who brought us the Medicare Prescription Drug fiasco? This is just more of the same - protecting the profits of wealthy corporations over the needs of working families struggling to afford the basics like preventive care and dental services."
At a time when 60% of Americans disapprove of his work on health care, Bush still isn't proposing anything more than a repackaging of his Social Security reforms. While providing more tax breaks for wealthy Americans he will leave the lowest-income and chronically ill patients to wither away.
"I work full-time, but my employer does not offer health insurance. My husband has chronic health conditions which have left us with over $100,000 in medical bills we can't afford to pay," explained Cheryl Smith of Portland. "The President's plan won't help us. If we had money to put in a savings account it would be going to pay for the health care we need right now."
The Health Savings Accounts do nothing to reduce the cost of health care - it simply shifts more of the costs to working families who can't afford it. Research shows people with health savings accounts pay more out-of-pocket for less quality care.
Bush lacks vision and has completely abdicated of his responsibility to address the health care crisis. His assertion that we are meeting our responsibility to provide health care for the poor and elderly is a complete fabrication (see story below)- has he not heard of the 85,000 low-income Oregonians kicked off the Oregon Health Plan or the millions of elderly Americans who cannot get their prescriptions under his new drug plan.
That is why it is important for all of us to hold candidates and elected leaders accountable for enacting common-sense solutions to reduce health care costs and increase access to health care.
Federal Health Care Cuts Enacted
Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved the budget reconciliation bill by an extremely close vote of 216-214. The legislation now goes to the President for his signature. Despite this heartbreaking loss, we want to thank all of you for your hard work fighting the budget cuts all year. Your calls and e-mails were crucial. We were successful in encouraging every Oregon Member of Congress to oppose the bill, except Representative Greg Walden.
As we have shared this budget cuts health care, child support enforcement and student aid, among other things. 13 million low-income Americans will see new or increased co-pays for medical care or prescription drugs. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that about 4.5 million children will face cost-sharing for the first time.
The final impact to low-income Oregonians remains to be seen. Many of the most harmful cuts in the reconciliation bill are at the discretion of the states, making it even more crucial we elect a pro-
affordable health care majority in the legislature to implement the new legislation in 2007.
In an Oregonian article, state officials expressed concern over the direction of cuts and program changes. "It puts us in a tough situation," said Dr. Bruce Goldberg, director of the Oregon Department of Human Services. "We've built a budget based on a set of assumptions, and now they're changing the rules midstream." (Oregonian, 2/3/06) They also expressed concern over a new provision requiring everyone who applies for aid to submit either a passport or birth certificate. This will create an administrative barrier to receiving care, particularly for homeless or severely mentally ill clients.
While we lost this battle, another one is on the horizon. Today the President is expected to announce his budget for the next fiscal year. The close nature of the votes on these budget cuts will make it more difficult to make additional cuts in vital human service programs- but only if we remain vigilant in opposing such draconian actions. Thanks for all your help!
In a vote of 52-45, the Senate failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to extend the deadline for enrollment in the Medicare Prescription Plan from May 15 to December 31.
Senator Wyden supported the amendment.
Senator Smith voted no.