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Bush's First 100 Days -- A Healthy Start?

WebMD Health News

April 27, 2001 (Washington) -- The Bush administration says that during its first 100 days, "significant strides" have been made in keeping the president's campaign pledge to improve U.S. healthcare quality. However, no one would dispute that there's still a lot that needs to be done.

"Solid B, I would say. No real reason to say that expectations haven't been met," Robert Reischauer, PhD, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and now head of the Urban Institute, tells WebMD. But then, Bush's primary domestic initiative has been to cut taxes, not remodel the nation's healthcare system. So Reischauer says the president has set the bar relatively low.

Healthcare economist Uwe Reinhardt, PhD, of Princeton University, comes to a similar conclusion about the president's performance. "They really have not come forth with a written, coherent program of their initiatives. What you've seen is worth a B, but that's like from the homework and midterm. You don't really have the final exam to give the student a solid grade," Reinhardt tells WebMD.

In a release put out by the Department of Health and Human Services, officials cite a number of healthcare initiatives under way, ranging from strengthening Medicare to protecting patient access to -- and privacy of -- medical records. Ultimately, in that area, the president simply allowed regulations developed by the Clinton administration to take effect.

"Patients didn't know that [their records] weren't protected. So this was an issue waiting to happen," says Reischauer. But Bob Helms of the American Enterprise Institute gives the President a B+ for getting his agenda out there.

"It's amazing that they were able to get this much of it done. ... I don't give them an A+, because they should have been further along in getting their own people at HHS," Helms tells WebMD.

Not surprisingly, Democrats say there's a healthy dose of exaggeration in George W. Bush's health claims.

"[The President] decided to reject a Medicare prescription drug program that covers all seniors who want it, and that even some in his own party consider a top priority. He decided to stop the bipartisan Patients' Bill of Rights that would really help patients and take power away from HMOs," says House Minority Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) in a statement.

In fact, the six-page HHS release doesn't mention a word about the debate over whether patients in health plans should have legislated guarantees, including the right to sue their HMOs for denial of treatment. Although Bush is on record as being in favor of patients' rights, he's opposed to a proposal authored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

McCain, who was Bush's main rival for the Republican presidential nomination, wants to set a higher ceiling for liability claims than the President does. Still, many Republicans, as well as Democrats, are backing the McCain reforms.

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