BUSH TO UNVEIL HEALTH CARE PLAN STILL BASED ON A FREE MARKET

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* Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan said President Bush will unveil his plan Thursday to reform the US health care system.

Sullivan said in an ABC-TV interview: "The president's plan is comprehensive" and will control costs, improve access to health insurance, and still maintain quality.

Although he avoided revealing specifics, Sullivan indicated the plan would not propose radical changes, but rather bolster the current free-market system through tax credits and cost-cutting measures. "We want to preserve what is good about the system, but also fix what is wrong," he said.

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Sullivan echoed the assessment of many health care experts when he said the United States already spends enough on health care, but the current system is highly inefficient.

In general, the current debate revolves around three distinct plans: supporting the current "free market system" with devices like tax credits; a "play or pay" system in which companies either provide health insurance or pay the government to do so; and a "universal plan" in which, as in Canada, health care is essentially socialized.

Not surprisingly, many Republicans are supporting a free market reform approach, whereas many Democrats support plans closer to a "play or pay" system.

The president of the Health Insurance Association, Carl Schramm, also interviewed by ABC, said a free market approach would yield the most efficient system.

A "play or pay" system, Schramm said, would ultimately be very inefficient because companies would find ways to pay for the cheaper coverage of healthy workers, and let the government pay the more costly coverage of high-risk workers.

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