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President uses radio address to promote health care plan

President Bush, who has made health care a top item in his election-year agenda, used his weekly radio address Saturday to promote his plan to address rising medical costs and the growing ranks of the uninsured.

The cost of health care is becoming a bigger concern for Americans, according to an Associated Press poll. Several surveys suggest the public is evenly divided on Bush's handling of domestic issues such as education and health care.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Bush touted his ideas for attacking the problem. He repeated that remedy, for what he termed "a great priority for our nation," in Saturday's speech.

The topic also is the focus of a trip Bush is making Monday to Little Rock, Ark.

The president is reviving old proposals for a cap on medical malpractice lawsuit awards, which he says are driving up doctors' insurance premiums and thus the cost of care, and for tax credits of up to $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families to help low-income workers buy health insurance.

He also proposes people who buy catastrophic health care coverage as part of newly created health savings accounts be allowed to deduct 100 percent of the premiums from their taxes.

He urged the Senate to act on a House-passed bill that would allow small businesses to band together and negotiate lower insurance rates so they can cover workers.

And he said his 2005 budget, to be delivered to Congress next month, would request double the funding _ to $100-million _ for projects that use promising health information technology, with the goal of a unified system of computerized medical records that Bush said would reduce errors and save money.

The president asked Congress to act this year on all his proposals.