BUSH/GORE: Health Reform Plans May Not Be Enough
Although both Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) have offered health care reform plans this election year, some California health experts doubt the proposals will have a major impact, the Orange County Register reports. Bush has pledged to "give low-income Americans tax credits to buy ... private health insurance," reserving $35 billion for his plan, while Gore has vowed to spend $127 billion to expand health coverage through CHIP and Medicare. According to Dr. Maria Minon, vice president for medical affairs at Children's Hospital of Orange County, neither plan is likely to alleviate the problems of the uninsured. Minon said, "In Orange County alone, we have 425,000 people with no health coverage," adding that "much more needs to be done." Minon praised Gore's plan to expand the Healthy Families program, but remained leery of Bush's tax credit proposal. "Families may choose not to use it because they feel they cannot spend their money on insurance," Minon said, adding that medical savings accounts -- another idea supported by Bush -- "may not work for young families who need every single penny for their food and housing." However, Nick Franklin, senior vice president for public affairs at PacifiCare, indicated that a patients' bill of rights tops his list of health care concerns. Franklin and his colleagues fear that Congress will pass a managed care bill allowing patients to sue their HMOs. While both Bush and Gore support such legislation, Bush would require patients to "go through many more steps" before taking a case to court. Janet Hooks, vice president for public policy at PacifiCare, said Bush "seems to understand the concerns that the health business has about regulations and government intervention." On the issue of prescription drugs, both candidates back a benefit for seniors. Bush's plan relies on the free market, using tax credits and subsidies to insurance companies to create "drug-only" policies for seniors, while Gore would make a prescription drug benefit part of the traditional Medicare program. As the election nears, Harvard professor Bob Blendon predicts increased visibility for the prescription drug issue as candidates hope to attract senior voters. Blendon said, "This is a group where parts of them could really move depending on how the candidates do on this issue" (Bunis, 8/16).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.