AL GORE: Criticizes Bush for Low Texas Insured Rate
Texas' 23.3% rate of uninsured residents -- the second highest in the nation -- is an indication that Gov. George W. Bush (R) has an "alarming disregard ... for the critical issue of health care," the Gore campaign said yesterday according to the AP/Las Vegas Sun. Figures released yesterday by the Census Bureau showed that only New Mexico had a higher uninsurance rate, with 25.8%, compared to 15.5% nationwide. Texas' rate decreased slightly from 1998, when 24.5% of the state's population was without health insurance. Bush spokesman Ken Lisaius "defended the Texas record," saying the state "faced special challenges that other fast-growing border states also deal with." He noted that, given Texas' large population and "unique circumstances ... certainly under Gov. Bush we've made great progress here." The Census Bureau considers two-year averages of state uninsured rates to be a "more accurate measure of progress," Lisaius added; those figures show that 23.9% of Texans were without insurance in 1998-99, down from 24.5% in 1997-98, while the nationwide decline across the same period was only 0.3 percentage points. Diane Rowland of the Kaiser Commission of Medicaid and the Uninsured said that the state has typically had substantial numbers of small business owners and immigrants, "segments of the population that have a greater tendency to be without health insurance," the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. But she added that Texas hasn't "done as many innovative things as other states" to decrease the number of uninsured residents (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/29).
Lieberman Rallies for Rx Drugs
At the U.S. Capitol yesterday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) rallied "at least 50 colleagues" in a "bristling attack on what he described as 'down-right deceptive' claims by Republicans" about the parties' plans to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, the Washington Post reports. The Democratic vice presidential nominee said, "I come here today to urge my friends in the House and Senate: Go forward. Stick with it. Send a message to the GOP. We will not rest until this Congress votes to give our seniors the prescription drug coverage you deserve." Lieberman also "tore into" the prescription drug proposals backed by Bush, which would provide a drug benefit through private insurers backed by federal subsidies. Lieberman said the plan would "exclude half of all the seniors who do not have drug coverage" and cost seniors more than the Democratic plan to provide a drug benefit directly through Medicare. House and Senate Minority Leaders Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) also spoke at the "unity rally;" Gephardt said that Republicans are "seeking cover" on the prescription drug issue by pushing for legislation to allow the reimportation of U.S.-made drugs from foreign countries. Republicans "retorted that Democrats were playing politics." House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said, "We have made good efforts to try to do some things to help our seniors ... and they're out on the front steps in a campaign mode" (Dewar, Washington Post, 9/29).