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HUMAN RESOURCES

Bush Stumps for Health Savings Accounts

During a visit to Ohio, the president once again expressed his support for HSAs as a way of reducing employer health-care costs.
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Feb. 15, 2006--President Bush continued touting health savings accounts as a way of reining in the soaring costs of employer-provided health care during a speech at the Wendy’s corporate office in Dublin, Ohio, on Wednesday.

The international fast-food chain implemented health savings accounts, or HSAs, last year after facing double-digit hikes in health insurance costs, Bush said. About 9,000 full-time employees at Wendy's now have the accounts, he said.

"Wendy's understands that choice for consumers is important," Bush said, comparing the restaurant's menu variety to the health-insurance needs of its workers. "I really urge American small businesses to take a look at HSAs. They're good for Wendy's, they'll be good for you, as well," he said.

Health savings accounts, which were signed into law in December 2003, are tax-free savings accounts for medical expenses with set maximum deposit coming from both individuals and their employers. Last year, high-deductible plans were limited to an annual contribution to HSAs of $2,650.

During his State of the Union speech on Jan. 31, and again on Wednesday, Bush pledged to extend health savings accounts -- likely by raising this allowable deposit limit, policy analysts said.

Of the 45 million Americans without medical coverage, about two-thirds work for small businesses, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, a Washington-based lobby group with more than 600,000 members.

On Wednesday, Bush called that "unacceptable."

"I'm going to lead the Congress to make sure that our health-care system preserves America's system of private medicine," Bush said, vowing to strengthen doctor-patient relationships and make medical benefits "affordable and accessible for our citizens."

Democrats and some labor groups say personal health savings accounts simply shift the burden of coverage from employers to individual workers, and discourages them from seeking necessary medical treatment.

According to the Democratic National Committee, the president's message on Wednesday offered nothing to the 1.2 million Ohioans without health insurance -- an increase of 34,000 since 2000.

In that time, the DNC said in a statement, health-insurance prices have climbed by 72%, or more than $1,000 per policy on average. Relying on HSAs will "weaken the existing health-insurance system, do nothing to improve access to health care, and increase the budget deficit by $156 billion over the next 10 years," the DNC said.




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