WAUWATOSA, Wis. – During a speech to medical students and professionals in Wisconsin Monday, President Bush laid out $117 billion in initiatives to help those with and without health insurance, and promised that individuals would get financial help from Washington, but not more government involvement in health care.
"The government has got to take an active role in reform. Yet it's important that government's role is not to centralize nor is government's role to control the delivery of medicine," Bush told the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa.
For the 39 million Americans without health insurance, Bush would offer $89 billion in health credits, broken down in $1,000 credits for individuals and $3,000 credits for families to make private insurance more affordable, which officials claim would help 6 million people get coverage.
"And they won't have to wait for tax time to get these health credits. We'll make them immediately available for qualifying families, giving them the help they need when they need it," Bush said.
In town to headline a $1 million dinner for Gov. Scott McCallum, the third fund-raising event the president has attended since a moratorium after Sept. 11, Bush was joined by the former governor of the state and his Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.
It was Bush's fourth trip to Wisconsin, a fiercely contested swing state he lost by 6,000 votes to Al Gore in the last election.
Even for those who do get health care from their employer, Bush said there is still a problem: Many families end up with health coverage that is premium-rich and care-poor.
To help those families, the president would reduce restrictions on what are called medical savings accounts, pre-tax dollars families could set aside to cover high out-of-pocket expenses. Bush said the money could be use on any health care need and if it is not used, people can keep it, rather than losing it.
Among the more than a dozen proposals, Bush would also pay 60 percent of the cost of health insurance for those who have been laid off in the recession, a proposal that was part of the economic stimulus package.
The president would also devote another $190 billion to reform Medicare, health care for the elderly and to add a prescription drug benefit.
Opponents of the president's plan say it doesn't go far enough in protecting Medicare. An aide to Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who is proposing an alternative measure, called the proposal totally inadequate. Kennedy's aide noted even House Republicans are willing to spend $300 billion on the measure, which Democrats consider a minimum.
Fox News' Jim Angle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.