GRAND RAPIDS – In his first public appearance after delivering his State of the Union address, President Bush discussed many of the same issues in Michigan yesterday. During his speech at the DeVos Place Convention Center, Bush focused his remarks primarily around health care reform and the need for immediate changes to the Medicare program.

Paul Wong
In his first speech after the State of the Union address, President Bush speaks about Medicare and foreign relations yesterday in Grand Rapids.

“Medicine has changed, and Medicare hasn’t. Medicare must be more flexible,” Bush said.

The reforms proposed by Bush include a $400 billion increase to the program’s budget. This increase would fund an expansion of Medicare to cover the cost of prescribed medication for senior citizens.

The president also raised concerns about what he said is an excessive number of medical malpractice lawsuits that are raising the cost of health care and called for a federal policy to reduce the frequency of frivolous lawsuits.

“One of the problems we have in our society is we have too many junk lawsuits,” Bush said. “I’ve had docs come up to me and say ‘I can’t do it anymore.'”

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm attended the event, and afterwards expressed uncertainty about the president’s proposals.

“I was expecting to learn more with regard to his plan for health care. There were very few details provided today,” Granholm said.

In addition to discussing Medicare, the president used the address to speak further about the potential conflict in Iraq, expanding on the accusations against Saddam Hussein that he put forth the previous night.

“You don’t contain Saddam Hussein – you don’t hope that therapy will change his evil mind. The risk of doing nothing is not a risk worth taking,” Bush told the loud and enthusiastic crowd.

The president made similar condemnations of members of al Qaida and assured the American people that the United States is winning the fight against terrorist organizations. He cited Tuesday’s confrontation in Afghanistan, in which at least 18 Afghan rebels were killed, as evidence that his campaign against terrorism is achieving success.

“We’re chasing them down one by one and bringing them to justice. We are slowly but surely dissecting their organization,” Bush said.

While senior citizens are the chief beneficiaries of Bush’s proposed Medicare reforms, some seniors in attendance at the address left feeling unsatisfied.

“I thought it was a fine speech – very well-delivered, but it lacked certain details which I thought were important. He said Medicare needed prescription drugs added, but he didn’t say how,” said Geoff Hughes of Grand Rapids.

“The part I missed is if we’re going to have an American expedition overseas, how is it going to be paid for?” Hughes added.

In contrast, many in attendance were completely in support of the president and called his address a sign of his qualifications.

“I thought it was wonderful. George Bush is the right man for the times,” Joanne Brownlee of Nunica said.

The president spoke on other domestic issues during the course of his speech, reinforcing the arguments that he made during the State of the Union. Bush once again addressed the AIDS crisis in Africa, the stumbling economy, the education system and the need for personal and institutional compassion within American communities.

The comments on compassion drew support from Granholm, but even the governor’s compliments revealed a degree of skepticism.

“I appreciate his emphasis on compassion, and I appreciate him standing up for it. I just want to make sure that as a state we have the resources that we need,” Granholm said.

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