‘BRADLEYCARE’: Gore Brings Race into Health Plan Debate
Vice President Al Gore took the offensive once again against former Sen. Bill Bradley Saturday, stepping up his attack on Bradley's health care coverage plan by claiming it would severely harm minorities, AIDS patients and the disabled (Lindlaw, AP/Nando Times, 11/14). Pouncing on his rival's plan to dismantle Medicaid and replace it with publicly subsidized vouchers, Gore told a crowd of 300 in Pasadena, CA, "If you eliminate Medicaid and replace it with vouchers ... then you're disproportionately hurting lower income families" (Gold, Los Angeles Times, 11/14). More specifically, Gore added, "any plan that tears down Medicaid leaves African Americans and Latinos out in the cold." He declared, "As someone who is committed to extending health care to every American child, I won't allow that to happen" (Broder, New York Times, 11/14). According to Gore, one-third of all black children and almost one-fifth of Hispanic children are Medicaid beneficiaries and thus would be adversely affected by Bradley's plan, which would provide only a meager health subsidy. In addition, the Bradley plan would hurt seven million disabled Medicaid recipients, as well as the half of U.S. AIDS patients who receive benefits, Gore said Saturday, urging "Senator Bradley to reconsider a program that has such a harsh impact on low-income and low-middle-income working families" (AP/Nando Times, 11/14).
In His Defense
Bradley spokesperson Eric Hauser called Gore's comments a "broad- brushed scare tactic lumping anything that you can find into one negative attack" (Boston Globe, 11/14). Bradley said in a statement, "This inaccurate attack is precisely the kind of thing that makes it impossible to get anything done in Washington. I want to replace Medicaid with something better. Providing all children with affordable health care is the only goal, and unfortunately Medicaid cannot meet that goal" (Nando Times, 11/14). During an interview yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition," he further explained, "Instead of having people go into emergency rooms in order to get health care after they're already sick, I want a system where they go into doctors offices to get health care before they're sick, and that's the big difference between these two plans" (Koch/Ullmann, USA Today, 11/15). Gore's attack represents an effort to "solidify minority support" for his campaign, the New York Times reports. But Bradley said his tactics for doing so are characterized by "small-mindedness and racial politics" (11/14).
Gore is not alone however in his criticism of Bradley's plan.
- Dubbing the proposal "BradleyCare" Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant posed the question Sunday: "If your purpose is to reduce the ranks of the 45 million people with no health insurance, what sense does it make to throw scarce federal dollars at people who already have health insurance ... [or] to throw more of those scarce dollars, in the form of tax deductions for premiums, at people who not only already have health insurance but are also filthy rich?" Such a plan is "quixotic," he writes, noting that Bradley has failed to consider key concerns in fleshing out his originally promising proposal. BradleyCare would feature a hefty price tag from need-blind qualifications and an expensive prescription drug benefit, but would only insure 89% of the population, compared to 88% with Gore's far cheaper plan, according to Oliphant, who quips, "Gimme a break." In addition, "BradleyCare virtually demands ignoring Medicare," an unwise decision, since the program will need to be shored up over the next decade to secure its future. He concludes, "As a result ... Vice President Al Gore's ideas now loom as sensible, workable and more progressive. By building on what already exists, Gore has a way over the next decade to increase insurance coverage to almost the level Bradley's ideas would, but at a cost that doesn't gobble the lion's share of any budget surplus, leaves room for investment in Medicare and also leaves room for investment in other national priorities" (11/14).
- Columnist Debra Saunders agrees in an Atlanta Journal Constitution op-ed, contending that many of Bradley's "campaign promises are more analogy than promise." His health plan contains lowball cost estimates and does not provide projections for how many people would be covered, she writes, noting, "It gives you the feeling they don't know, or don't want to know." Additionally, Bradley has yet to come up with a way to pay for his proposed plan, creating the impression that "Plan Bradley, like most other campaign promises this year, will be practically free -- it will emerge from the forehead of the federal surplus," Saunders writes. She concludes by pointing out that campaign aides "wouldn't say what Bradley would do if there is no surplus" (11/15).
- A S alt Lake Tribune editorial echoes the columnists' sentiments and argues that the cost factor will ultimately determine whether either plan is implemented. The candidates "have to offer responsible cost estimates before the public determines it has the 'will' to pay for a system that covers more people. ... The reality is, if the cost of reform is too high ... then the current system will remain 'acceptable' to U.S. taxpayers" (11/15).