Bush 2008 Health Agenda to
Limit Government's Role in Health Care Delivery
KEVIN FREKING / AP 20jan2008
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration's health agenda this year will consist largely of fending off Democratic lawmakers until a new president and Congress take charge. In a preview of what's ahead, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says the administration will work to limit the government's role in the delivery of health care. That goal is at odds with several Democratic proposals, such as giving the health chief the power to negotiate drug prices and greatly increasing enrollment in federally sponsored health insurance for children.
Leavitt sees the philosophical divide playing out in numerous ways before the November elections.
Most policy analysts see little chance for compromise on almost all the major health issues before Congress — a view shared by the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees most health issues.
Based on last year's experience in the first year of Democratic control, "I'm not expecting too much cooperation or bipartisanship," Texas Rep. Joe Barton said.
Democrats will try to keep attention on a proposed expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The party sees this program as the most practical way to increase coverage to 4 million children, said Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who heads the health subcommittee.
Under the program, the government and states subsidize insurance for children in low-income families that do not qualify for Medicaid. Leavitt often refers to the children's insurance program as government-run health care. Pallone, however, notes that private insurers routinely contract with states to administer the benefit.
The administration is "into this ideological labeling of everything, even when there's no basis for it," Pallone said.
Democrats, with some Republican support, will try to override President Bush's veto of a bill that would basically double spending on the program, to $12 billion annually. A similar vote last year fell 13 votes shy.