NU Online News Service, Jan. 29, 11:07 a.m. – President Bush took time in his State of the Union speech Tuesday to zing health maintenance organizations.

“Instead of bureaucrats and trial lawyers and HMOs,” the president declared, “we must put doctors and nurses and patients back in charge of American medicine.”

But the president also expressed support for the concept of private health insurance. “We must work toward a system in which all Americans have a good insurance policy [and] choose their own doctors,” the president said.

Although many people are unable to afford medical care and others lack any medical coverage, “these problems will not be solved with a nationalized health care system that dictates coverage and rations care,” the president insisted.

The Health Insurance Association of America, Washington, put out a statement that ignores the remark about HMOs and praises the president for his call to work with private insurers to expand access to coverage.

“President Bush laid out a clear vision for making health care more affordable and more available,” Dr. Donald Young, president of the HIAA, says in the statement. “We appreciate his dedication to lead in this critical endeavor, and we encourage him to use the energy of the free market to drive these changes whenever feasible.”

The Bush administration should also help support Americans who buy long-term care insurance, both to improve the financial security of Americans today and reduce states’ future Medicaid burdens, Young says.