- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

MUSKEGON, Mich. — President Bush yesterday touted his “common-sense” health care proposals and said John Kerry is plotting a “government takeover” of the country’s medical system.

Touring mostly Democratic areas in this key state, Mr. Bush made overt pitches for his conservative domestic agenda, promised to work to reform Social Security so younger workers can build private savings accounts and vowed to make his push to cut taxes further in a second term “a big issue in this campaign.”

Most of his focus, however, was on health care, an issue that has taken a back seat to the war on terror on the campaign trail in recent weeks.

“I have a practical, common-sense plan to make sure health care is available and affordable and a way to make sure good doctors keep practicing medicine,” Mr. Bush said to a gathering of a few hundred supporters at an airplane hangar in this city along Lake Michigan.

“I’m running against a fella who has got a massive, complicated blueprint to have our government take over the decision-making in health care,” he said of Sen. John Kerry, his Democratic challenger for the White House. “His plan, if you listen carefully to what he says, would have bureaucrats become the decision-makers, and that would be wrong for America.

“What would you expect from a senator from Massachusetts?” Mr. Bush said, to the laughter of the crowd.

Mr. Bush’s plan, broadly, would focus on helping small businesses pool their resources to gain the health-insurance purchasing power of large corporations, trying to curtail “frivolous lawsuits” to bring down the cost of practicing medicine and encouraging the creation of private health savings accounts through tax incentives.

Al Gore captured Michigan’s 17 Electoral College votes by a margin of 5.2 percent in 2000, and most polls have given Mr. Kerry a comparable lead in the state for months. Recently, however, some polls show voters trending slowly toward the president.

Mr. Bush’s comments dovetail with a new television ad released yesterday by his campaign titled “Health care: Practical vs. Big Government.”

“The liberals in Congress and Kerry’s plan: Washington bureaucrats in control; a government-run health care plan; $1.5 trillion price tag,” said the ad’s narrator. “Big government in charge. Not you. Not your doctor.”

Mr. Bush’s charge that Mr. Kerry’s plan would cost $1.5 trillion is based on a study by the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank that the Kerry campaign said has no credibility because it has employed Vice President Dick Cheney and members of his family.

“We’re glad to see that he’s finally talking about the health care issue after doing nothing about it for four years,” said Kerry-Edwards policy director Sarah Bianchi. “He’s turned to baseless attacks on the Kerry approach and is now citing a false report by the American Enterprise Institute, the employer of Liz and Lynne Cheney and something for which Dick Cheney has served on the board.”

Mr. Bush cites this “partisan report,” she said, because they can’t talk about “the real numbers” that show a 66 percent increase in Medicare premiums, an increase of $3,500 in the average family’s health care insurance and “five million more Americans without health insurance” during the president’s term.

Miss Bianchi said the president’s claim that Mr. Kerry plans a “government takeover” of the health care system is “ridiculous, absolutely false and baseless.”

“The reason he is saying that is because he doesn’t have a plan on his own,” she said.

Mr. Bush also stopped at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds for a campaign rally, where he pitched his plan to reform Social Security for younger workers by letting them take some of the payroll taxes they pay into the system and put them into private accounts.

He lobbed a pre-emptive strike at the common Democratic attack on Social Security reform to the cheers of the crowd.

“I don’t care what the Washington politicians tell you, no one is going to take your benefits away,” Mr. Bush said.

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