Friday, Jan. 19, 2007
(Washington, D.C.) – President Bush’s expected call Tuesday for more tax breaks for buying health insurance, and more incentives for increasing the use of alternative fuels, falls short of laying out a real, comprehensive plan to address the nation’s growing healthcare and energy problems, Consumers Union said.
“Last year the President made healthcare and energy reform key parts of his agenda, and we’re still looking at record numbers of uninsured Americans and a growing reliance on oil,” said Bill Vaughan, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union.
“If the President really wants to take the lead on skyrocketing healthcare costs and securing our nation’s energy future, he must put forth comprehensive strategies that truly help consumers,” Vaughan said.
The President is expected to propose tax breaks for those purchasing their own health insurance as a solution to helping the 46 million of Americans without health coverage. But most low and middle-income families don’t have enough income to purchase health insurance even with tax breaks, Vaughan said.
“Tax deductions do little or nothing for those people who are uninsured and devastated by high healthcare costs,” Vaughan said. “When an individual family policy for decent health coverage costs about $11,000 a year, tax credits of $1,000 to $3,000 to buy insurance are almost meaningless.”
Bush also is expected to continue pushing tax-free savings accounts for high-deductible insurance policies. “Giving tax breaks only encourages healthier and wealthier people to opt-out of traditional employer-based insurance, leaving behind a fractured insurance pool that hurts the older and sicker,” Vaughan said.
Consumers Union also is urging the President to support legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors, and to adequately fund drug safety efforts.
The president also is expected to offer more incentives for increasing alternative fuels, and press reports indicate he may call for increasing fuel economy standards on passenger cars.
Consumers Union said the President and Congress should work together on legislation that sets high but achievable standards for improving the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks.
“Setting strong fuel efficiency standards would save billions of gallons of gas a year,” said Anne Wright, senior policy analyst. “This move, coupled with mandates for use of energy efficient, renewable technologies, would be a positive step forward.
“We need leadership on an energy policy that includes real improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, alternatives to gasoline, and energy conservation,” Wright added. “Rhetoric that translates into more do-nothing policies doesn’t help Americans frustrated with high gas prices or the lack of innovation to ease our dependence on oil.”
Susan Herold, 202-462-6262