Analysis Compares Health Care Proposals of Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. John Kerry, President Bush
President Bush's proposal to expand health coverage would cover fewer than 2.5 million uninsured people and would cost $90 billion -- "a far more modest approach" than a $653 billion plan to cover 27 million uninsured people proposed by presumed Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), according to a 10-year cost projection analysis released Wednesday, the Washington Post reports. According to the analysis of proposals released during the campaign, in 2008 Bush would spend an estimated $3,800 per each new person covered, while Kerry would spend less than $3,200 per person. The analysis by Emory University health economist Kenneth Thorpe, a former Clinton administration health adviser who does not receive funding from any campaign for his research, "illustrate[s] the widely divergent views of the two presidential candidates on an issue that continues to be high on the list of voter concerns," the Post reports. Kerry and Bush's plans both involve giving refundable tax credits to help people purchase health insurance and allowing individuals and small businesses to pool together to negotiate discounted health coverage, the Post reports. Thorpe said that "[p]art of the reason Bush would put such a small dent in the number of uninsured -- at a comparable or slightly higher cost -- is that the people most likely to take advantage of his proposals already have some insurance," the Post reports. In contrast, Kerry's plans to expand a range of public health insurance programs such as SCHIP and Medicaid "are more ambitious and targeted more directly at middle-income workers," Thorpe said, the Post reports. Kerry's plan also would have the federal government pick up 75% of cost of medical cases that reach $50,000. According to Kerry's campaign aides, he would "pay for his initiatives by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans," the Post reports. Thorpe's analysis says that through technology improvements and disease management programs, Kerry would save $298 billion.
Bush advisers "disputed" Thorpe's analysis, "calling such projections speculative," the Post reports. Thorpe noted that if Bush submitted a "more detailed plan" on his proposal to implement a national electronic medical records system, the cost of his plan would likely be reduced, according to the Post. Megan Hauck, deputy policy director for the Bush campaign, "did not dispute Thorpe's figures but said the president's strategy on health care expands beyond Kerry's focus on government and the uninsured," the Post reports. She said, "The underlying problem is rising health care costs," which Bush believes can be controlled by reforming the medical malpractice insurance system. According to the Post, Hauck said that Bush "also deserves credit for adding money to community health centers that care for the poor and giving states waivers to expand Medicaid programs." The Post reports that "neither of those initiatives appears to have reduced the number of uninsured." Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "The two sets of numbers demonstrate the magnitude of dollars required to cover a substantial number of the uninsured." She added that the health care debate is actually a "stalking horse for the broader discussion of national priorities and the use of federal dollars" (Connolly, Washington Post, 5/6).
PBS' "Tavis Smiley" on Thursday will include an hour-long interview with Kerry about several issues, including his ideas for health care reform (Smiley, "Tavis Smiley," PBS, 5/6). Check local PBS listings for show times. A complete transcript and audio of the program in RealPlayer will be available online after the broadcast.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.