Lee's Summit, Mo. In town to push his proposal to expand access to health insurance, President Bush on Thursday praised advanced patient care technology at a local hospital.
Bush toured the Lee's Summit campus of the St. Luke's Health System, which is less than two years old and features an array of high-tech systems that closely track patient care, even from half a state away.
In one room, Bush studied a wall of computer screens that included medical information on every patient currently receiving treatment in the hospital's emergency room, including the X-ray of a girl who had dislocated her elbow.
"Medicine is finally catching up with the rest of America in the use of technology," said Bush, who has advocated for greater use of computerized health records as a way to reduce costs and medical errors.
Afterward, Bush attended a round-table discussion in one of the hospital's conference rooms with a group of small-business owners and employees, hearing their concerns about paying for insurance.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Bush proposed taxing employer-financed health care benefits after a deduction of $15,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals. The deductions would also apply to people buying their own insurance plans.
Bush defended the plan Thursday, saying it would "level the playing field" between small businesses and large businesses, which typically get a discount because of their size.
"If you work for a company you get your health care for free, in essence, because it's part of your benefit package," he said. "If you're a stand-alone person, you're paying for your insurance on an after-tax basis. There's discrimination in the tax code based on who you work for."
As an example, he pointed to Dan Jones, a St. Louis computer engineer and one of the round-table participants, who said he's been without insurance since dropping his individual plan when premiums got to $400 a month.
"That $4,800 (a year's worth of premiums) is a lot of money," he said. "That's money that could go toward a car or a house."
Bush said the plan would save Jones more than the cost for an individual insurance plan.
"Here's a classic case, a young guy in the marketplace priced out of the individual market," he said. "The plan helps him."