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Bush attacks Kerry's health plan, malpractice suits

President: 'He trusts government; I trust the people'

President Bush speaks on health care and medical liability reform in Downington, Pennsylvania, Thursday.
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Health care policy
George W. Bush
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DOWNINGTON, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- President Bush told supporters in Pennsylvania Thursday that he would work to reduce the cost of health care if elected to a second term.

He also attacked Democratic challenger John Kerry's health care proposals, saying they "always involve bigger and more intrusive government."

"If you think about it, on issue after issue after issue, my opponent wants the government to dictate to the American people," Bush said.

"I want the American people to decide. He trusts government; I trust the people."

Kerry's campaign responded by noting that several major newspapers have called Bush's description of the Democrat's plan as a "government-run" program an exaggeration -- or even "fiction," as the Washington Post put it.

With 21 electoral votes, Pennsylvania is one of the major battlegrounds in this year's election. Bush lost the state to Democrat Al Gore, then the vice president, in 2000 by a margin of 5 percentage points, but recent polls show the Bush-Kerry race practically even.

The stop in Downington was one of three Bush made Thursday in the Pennsylvania. He met with Philadelphia's archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, and held a late afternoon rally in Hershey.

Bush said he kept his word to cut taxes and extend Medicare benefits by adding a prescription drug plan, and he repeated his pledge to push for limits on damage awards in lawsuits, which Bush blames for driving up the cost of health care and driving doctors out of their practices.

"We want our doctors focused on fighting illness, not on having to fight lawsuits," he said,

Industry groups say Pennsylvania has among the highest medical malpractice insurance rates in the country, and they argue that those rates are pushing doctors out of business.

Kerry has proposed extending health care by expanding tax credits for small businesses to encourage them to provide health insurance, allowing older workers to buy into Medicare and expanding the Medicaid program to cover more children.

He says he would pay for the program by rolling back Bush's tax cuts for the country's wealthiest taxpayers, but the president said Kerry would still need to find up to $600 billion to pay for his program.

"There is a gap between what he promises and how he says he's going to pay for it. And guess who usually fills the gap? You do," Bush said.

And he said raising taxes on the rich would be futile, since they would just find a way to avoid paying them.

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