(January 20 ,2007)
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. For many
Americans, the new year began with a resolution to live a better and healthier
life. Whatever goals you have set for yourself this year, one goal we can all
share is reforming our Nation's health care system.
Americans are fortunate to have the best health care system in the world. The
government has an important role to play in our system. We have an obligation to
provide care for the most vulnerable members of our society -- the elderly, the
disabled, and poor children and their parents. We are meeting this
responsibility through Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children's Health
Insurance Program. We must strengthen these vital programs so that they are
around when future generations need them.
For all other Americans,
private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs. But rising health
care costs are making insurance too expensive for millions of our citizens.
Health care costs are growing more than two times faster than wages, and this is
making it harder for working families to buy insurance on their own. Rising
costs are also making it harder for small businesses to offer health coverage to
their employees. Our challenge is clear: We must address these rising costs, so
that more Americans can afford basic health insurance. And we need to do it
without creating a new Federal entitlement program or raising taxes.
Our Nation is making progress toward this goal. We created Health Savings
Accounts, which empower patients and can reduce the cost of coverage. We are
working to pass Association Health Plans, so that small businesses can insure
their workers at the favorable discounts that big businesses get. We must pass
medical liability reform, so we can stop the junk lawsuits that drive costs
through the roof and good doctors out of practice. We've taken important steps
to increase transparency in health care pricing, and give patients more
information about the quality of their doctors and hospitals.
One of the most promising ways to make private health insurance more
affordable is by reforming the Federal tax code. Today, the tax code unfairly
penalizes people who do not get health insurance through their job. It unwisely
encourages workers to choose overly expensive, gold-plated plans. The result is
that insurance premiums rise, and many Americans cannot afford the coverage they
We need to fix these problems, and one way to do so is to treat health
insurance more like home ownership. The current tax code encourages home
ownership by allowing you to deduct the interest on your mortgage from your
taxes. We can reform the tax code, so that it provides a similar incentive for
you to buy health insurance. So in my State of the Union Address next Tuesday, I
will propose a tax reform designed to help make basic private health insurance
more affordable -- whether you get it through your job or on your own.
As we reform the Federal tax code, we will also support the innovative
measures that states are taking to address the problem of the uninsured.
Governors across the Nation have put forward plans to make basic private health
insurance more accessible for their citizens. When I go before Congress next
week, I will announce a new effort -- led by Health and Human Services Secretary
Michael Leavitt -- to help governors reduce the number of people in their states
without private health insurance.
All of these changes are based on a clear principle: Health insurance should
be available, it should be affordable, and it should put you and your doctor in
charge of your medical decisions. I look forward to working with Congress to
pass the initiatives that I lay out next week, so we can help millions more
Americans enjoy better care, new choices, and healthier lives.
Thank you for listening.