- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

If a liberal president proposed reforming the tax code to give working families a bigger tax break for health care than corporations and giving poor families direct assistance to buy health care to boot, the New York Times and rest of the mainstream media would be choking back tears as it praised an initiative that was so bold in its compassion and desire for fairness.

But this proposal to make the tax code fair and health care affordable comes from President Bush with a Congress under Democratic control in the run to a presidential election year. So it will be attacked for failing to be everything that everyone else’s proposal is not.

The fact is, the Bush plan slices through the thicket of policy proposals — all of which boil down to dumping more people into state Medicaid programs — and gives the self employed and uninsured, from the single mom who cuts hair to the electrician starting his own business, a tax break of about $3,800 to buy health care. Under the president’s plan, millions of working-class and middle-class families could buy health care with pretax dollars. It only comes at the expense of the richest health plans of top CEOs. Even then, those wanting to avoid a tax bite at that level can set up a health-savings account.

According to a study by the Urban Institute, 44 percent of people without health care don’t have it because they don’t want to spend the money or because they don’t sign up for government-run health plans even when eligible. Add the Bush tax-break money to recent increases in contributions people can now make to health-savings accounts and another Bush proposal to allow the people to buy private health plans at group rates and the affordability issue is largely solved.

It’s not the entire answer, of course. Using existing monies to fund health care for children as tax credits for insurance would help, too. But you won’t find the president’s critics supporting his fair and compassionate plan. Their solution, as the employer-based health-care system falters, is to expand Medicaid. That’s like forcing people into the medical equivalent of public housing.

Many opponents of the president’s proposal support expansion of government-run health plans because they don’t believe Americans, when given the money and freedom to choose their own health care, will wind up better off. Rather, they believe we, the people, will mess it up because we’re too stupid or poor or old to make decisions that are in our best interests.

We heard the same wailings and warnings when the president reformed Medicare. Sen. Barack Obama and others may believe hope is audacious, but it’s President Bush who believes and has demonstrated that it creates better health care for every American.

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