Health care is another area where Americans were much better off under Mr. Bush’s policies than the approach taken by Mr. Obama, who jammed through on a party-line vote an unpopular health-care bill that will far exceed cost projections and deny Americans choice in health-care coverage. By contrast, in enacting the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, Part D, Mr. Bush garnered bipartisan support and structured the program to benefit from competition, resulting in average premiums for seniors today at $31 per month, well below the original estimate of $35 per month for the program’s first year. The administration also added preventive-screening programs to Medicare that help diagnose illnesses earlier and contain costs.
Ten years ago, the Congressional Budget Office projected the cost of Medicare Part D in its first decade would be $551 billion. But because of the preventive elements of the bill and the market-competition framework, the actual cost has been about $358 billion, 35 percent less than forecast. The Bush administration expanded consumer choice and competition for health care for seniors, providing private Medicare Advantage plans to 10 million people by 2008. While the number of Americans enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans has now reached 14 million, the health-care bill passed in 2010 by the Obama administration cut over $300 billion from this program to fund the Affordable Care Act.
Nearly 7 million more Americans now have health-care coverage through health savings accounts that were created under the Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, which also created Part D. The number of individuals covered by HSA-eligible plans at small businesses increased by 70 percent in 2008 alone. In 2012, 13.5 million Americans had chosen to be covered by HSA-eligible plans.
Had Mr. Bush’s second-term efforts to reform Social Security and immigration policies been successful, it’s fair to argue that our country and the Republican party would be in much better shape today. Seven years after these efforts failed, many of his proposals are at the heart of current efforts to address these two critical issues.
Like hundreds of my former colleagues from the Bush administration, I’m excited about the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library this week. We’re looking forward to seeing the man we were privileged to serve as he served our country with honor and commitment. We appreciate his respectful tone in debate and his decency toward those who worked for him.
I’m not alone in feeling that I was a better person after 20 months at his side. And we look forward to the day when the facts about his time in office are more widely understood. Hopefully, scholars will avail themselves of these facts at the archives of this new presidential library.
— Ed Gillespie was counselor to President George W. Bush from June 2007 to January 2009.