Bush Says During Campaign Stop That Kerry Seeks To Nationalize Health Care
President Bush on Thursday, during campaign appearances in Minnesota, told audiences that Democratic Presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry's (Mass.) health care proposal is "wrong for the American citizen," the New York Times reports. In an argument "reminiscent of Republican attacks on President Bill Clinton's ill-fated effort to reshape the health care system" in 1993, Bush said that Kerry is seeking to nationalize the health care system (Stevenson/Toner, New York Times, 9/17).
Bush said that Kerry's plan is too expensive and would cause many employers to stop offering health insurance to employees, thereby increasing enrollment in the Medicaid program. Bush said that a key difference between his and Kerry's plan is that he seeks to expand individuals' opportunities while Kerry seeks to expand the role of the government. During a rally in St. Cloud, Minn., Bush said, "My opponent wants government to dictate; I want you to decide when it comes to health care." Bush added, "I think the problem in this campaign that my opponent has is that it's a plan that is massive and it's big and it puts the government in control of health care. And you can tell it's massive by the price tag."
Bush cited a study by the American Enterprise Institute that found that Kerry's plan would cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Kerry campaign officials say his plan would cost $653 billion over 10 years, and that the AEI study used flawed methods and did not accurately specify Kerry's plan. Bush said, "A recent study showed that the plan would cause 8 million low- to moderate-income workers to lose private health coverage they currently get at work and be placed on Medicaid. Now, here's the problem with that: Medicaid is a government program. And when the government is in charge bureaucrats make the decisions, deciding what doctors you can see and what health services are covered" (Douglas, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/17).
Bush added, "I have a common-sense, practical plan to make high-quality health care more affordable and more accessible." Bush also addressed legalizing the reimportation of lower-cost, U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada, which is a "particularly difficult issue in Minnesota," according to the Times. Bush said that he would work to speed the approval of generic prescription drugs in an effort to reduce costs (New York Times, 9/17).
Kerry campaign officials "responded immediately" to Bush's charges, saying the president was attempting to mislead voters, the Inquirer reports (Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/17). Tad Devine, senior strategist for Kerry, said that Bush "demonstrated a reckless disregard for truth" in his description of Kerry's plan (New York Times, 9/17). He added, "We believe the Bush campaign's decision to attack John Kerry (on health care) is a costly mistake. His effort to attack [Kerry] is designed to mislead voters, not inform them" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/17).
Kerry campaign Policy Director Sarah Bianchi said that Kerry's plan is "very pro-business, it is very pro-consumer and it is voluntary."
Some independent analysts said that the Bush administration "had little basis for its suggestion that [Kerry] was seeking to nationalize health care," the Times reports. Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute and a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who evaluated the Clinton administration health plan, said, "What Kerry is proposing is like the renovation of a house, whereas Clinton was advocating completely rebuilding the structure."
Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that Bush was proposing a larger change in the national approach to the health coverage than Kerry, according to the Times (New York Times, 9/17).
The Kerry campaign has released a television ad, titled "Not True," on national cable and some local television stations. The ad says that Bush is misrepresenting Kerry's health care plan (Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/17). The ad also says that Bush is "wrong on health care" (New York Times, 9/17). The Washington Post's Ad Watch on Friday looked at the Kerry campaign ad (Kurtz, Washington Post, 9/17).
ABCNews' "World News Tonight" on Thursday reported on Bush and Kerry's proposals to reform health care. The segment includes comments from Henry Aaron, a health policy expert at the Brookings Institution; Altman; Joseph Antos, a scholar in health care and retirement policy at the American Enterprise Institute; and Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University (Snow, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 9/16). The complete transcript is available online. A video excerpt of the segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.