President Bush referred briefly to health insurance and Social Security reform efforts in his 2008 State of the Union address.

Bush talked about the subjects in a section of his speech about the “unfinished business” that he said Democrats and Republicans must unite to complete.

Bush called for Congress to end “the bias in the tax code against those who do not get their health insurance through their employer.”

“The Congress must also expand health savings accounts, create association health plans for small businesses, promote health information technology, and confront the epidemic of junk medical lawsuits,” Bush said.

Bush did bring back past demands for Congress to create a system of individual Social Security retirement accounts, but he said spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid “is growing faster than we can afford.”

“We all know the painful choices ahead if America stays on this path: massive tax increases, sudden and drastic cuts in benefits, or crippling deficits,” Bush said. “I’ve laid out proposals to reform these programs. Now I ask members of Congress to offer your proposals and come up with a bipartisan solution to save these vital programs for our children and our grandchildren.”

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a former president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union address.

Sebelius said members of Congress must rise above partisan differences to take immediate action on the struggling economy.

Sebelius also asked Bush to retreat from his decision to veto a State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill that would greatly expand SCHIP funding. Bush instead signed a bill that would increase spending authorization to about $6 billion per year, from $5 billion.

“We know that caring for our children, so they have a healthy and better start in life, is what grownups do,” Sebelius said. “Governors in both parties, and a large majority of the Congress are ready, right now, to provide health care to 10 million American children, as a first step in overhauling our health care system. Join us, Mr. President, sign the bill and let’s get to work.”