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Democrats Balk at Bush's Health Insurance Proposal

One day after President Bush unveiled his health care tax plan to the nation, Congressional Democrats // all but buried the proposal Wednesday, saying it could wreck the system of employer-based care and burden middle-class working families.

President Bush, while speaking at a health center in the Midwest state of Missouri, said that changing private health insurance is the way to make coverage more affordable for more people. He added that his plan would move Americans away from government-run health care toward a system that will be better access to basic, affordable private insurance.

The White House said that the proposal will also reduce the number of uninsured Americans by lowering their taxes and making it easier for them to afford insurance.

Beginning in 2009, Bush wants to give taxpayers with basic health insurance a standard tax deduction of $15,000 for family coverage or $7,500 for single coverage. Those whose coverage costs more - an estimated 35 million people - would pay taxes on the difference.

The proposal would give people who buy health insurance outside the workplace the same tax break currently enjoyed by those with job-based coverage. About 80 percent of the estimated 175 million people with job-based coverage would see lower taxes from the plan, the government estimates. Health care experts have expressed modest support for the proposal as a starting point to reduce the nation's 46 million people without health insurance.

But Democrats, who've long championed the cause of America's uninsured, were loath to concede the political high ground to an unpopular lame-duck president on one of their most potent domestic policy issues.

One by one on Wednesday, key Democratic leaders made it clear that they would use their new majority status to block the measure even as Bush was set to travel to Lee's Summit, Mo., on Thursday to promote the plan.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., chairma
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