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 Home > News & Policies > March 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 16, 2004

Fact Sheet: Affordable Health Care for America's Families

"On the critical issue of health care, our goal is to ensure that Americans can choose and afford private health care coverage that best fits their individual needs. To make insurance more affordable, Congress must act to address rapidly rising health care costs."

--President Bush, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2004

Today's Presidential Action

  • President Bush today addressed an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on his plan to make health care more affordable to all Americans and discussed the Administration's accomplishments in strengthening and improving health coverage.
  • The President is concerned about the rising cost of health care and the impact on accessibility and job creation. The President urged action on his agenda for addressing rising health care costs and helping more Americans afford insurance.

Background - The President's Plan To Make Health Care More Affordable

  • Association Health Plans (AHPs) will help small businesses provide affordable health insurance coverage to their workers. AHPs will give America's working families greater access to affordable health insurance. By allowing small businesses to band together and negotiate on behalf of their employees and their families, AHPs would help small businesses and employees have health insurance at an affordable price -- the Congressional Budget Office estimates at least 600,000 workers would get health insurance under AHPs. Because state rules prevent the creation of AHPs by trade groups and other organizations, there are now less than 200 AHPs compared to 1,000 AHPs in 1990.
  • Millions of Americans will get help with their out-of-pocket medical expenses through health savings accounts (HSAs). The Medicare bill that President Bush signed into law establishes new tax-free savings accounts for individuals and groups who purchase low-premium, high-deductible health plans. Businesses and individuals who take advantage of these accounts will save substantial sums on health insurance premiums and gain more control over health care expenditures. The tax-free, portable accounts will help families pay their routine medical expenses and provide a tax-preferred means of saving for future health care needs.
  • New health insurance deductions will make coverage more affordable to millions of Americans whose employers don't provide health benefits. The President's proposal will allow individuals who establish HSAs to deduct the premiums they pay for their low-premium, high-deductible health insurance policies. This new deduction will be available to taxpayers whether or not they itemize. It will reduce the net cost of these policies and encourage the use of HSAs for saving for health care needs and making wise, cost-effective health care choices.
  • Refundable tax credits will make health insurance more affordable to millions of low-income Americans. The President has proposed to establish refundable tax credits of up to $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families to help low-income workers buy health insurance coverage.
  • Medical liability reform will help improve health care quality and reduce health care costs. President Bush believes these needed reforms will increase access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans, while reducing frivolous and time-consuming legal proceedings against doctors and health care providers that are driving good providers out of local communities across the country.

The President's Health Care Accomplishments

  • All seniors will be guaranteed access to affordable prescription drug coverage under Medicare. In December 2003, President Bush signed into law legislation that will make Medicare prescription drug coverage available to 40 million seniors and people with disabilities. The new benefit will become available on January 1, 2006. Beginning in June 2004, beneficiaries will have access to Medicare-approved prescription drug discount cards, which will save them 10 -- 25% off the retail price of most prescription drugs. Low-income beneficiaries also will receive $600 to help them purchase their medicines.
  • All seniors will have more choices and better benefits under a strengthened and improved Medicare program. In addition to helping seniors afford their prescriptions, the legislation the President signed enhances basic Medicare coverage by providing better preventive care. Beginning in 2006, seniors also will get the same kinds of choices that Members of Congress and Federal employees have to select the coverage that is best for them, including the choice of keeping their Medicare coverage just the way it is.
  • All Americans will benefit from lower prescription drug prices. The President has implemented a new rule to lower drug costs for millions of Americans. By strengthening competition between generic and brand-name drugs, patients will enjoy increased access to generic drugs, which are safe, effective, and often more affordable than the brand-name alternatives. This rule is expected to save American consumers more than $35 billion in drug costs over the next 10 years.
  • Millions of low-income Americans have been made eligible for health care coverage. From January 2001 through December 2003, HHS approved waivers and state plan amendments that will make an additional 2.6 million low-income children and adults eligible for Medicaid and SCHIP when fully implemented. Overall, the number of children eligible for Medicaid increased from 22.7 million to 25.7 million from FY 2001 to FY 2004. The number of non-disabled adults has increased 21% from 12.6 million to 15.3 million. The number of children enrolled in SCHIP increased from 4.6 million in 2001 to 5.8 million in 2003. In total, nearly 7 million additional low-income children and adults are being served in Medicaid and SCHIP.
  • Vulnerable populations who live in medically underserved areas have gained greater access to medical services. To fulfill a commitment to open or expand 1,200 community health center sites to serve an additional 6.1 million people by 2006, the President has dramatically increased funding for health centers to serve individuals who live in underserved and rural areas, including many adults and children who are uninsured, low-income individuals, migrant farm workers, homeless individuals, and children.
  • Federal funding of state high-risk pools, which provide safety net health insurance to individuals with serious medical conditions, will make coverage more affordable. Many Americans with pre-existing medical conditions have difficulty finding insurance coverage. Others have policies available, but can't afford the premiums. High-risk pools in 30 states make coverage available and more affordable to these individuals. In December 2002, President Bush signed into law legislation that will make $100 million available to states to establish and support high-risk pools. Some $40 million in Federal funds will be awarded to states this year to help subsidize these pools.
  • Doubling the budget of the National Institutes of Health will lead to better health care for all Americans. President Bush fulfilled another commitment by completing the historic doubling of the NIH budget by 2003, dramatically increasing medical research to $28.6 billion in his FY 2005 budget to speed cures and treatments for the diseases that plague our Nation and the world.
  • Increased funding for biodefense preparedness is strengthening our homeland security and improving public health surveillance. The President has provided nearly $4.5 billion to states, local governments, and hospitals for preparedness against a bioterrorist attack. Enhancements to public health surveillance improve our capacity in the area of detecting and responding to all human illnesses and outbreaks of disease.