CAMPAIGN 2000: Gore Challenges Bradley on Health Costs
In a nationally televised "town meeting" last night, Vice President Al Gore challenged the projected costs of former senator Bill Bradley's health care plan and asserted it could jeopardize Medicare. For the most part, Gore and Bradley "echo[ed] similar themes and priorities," in the 60-minute forum held on the Dartmouth College campus, sponsored by CNN and WMUR- TV of Manchester, NH. In attempting to emphasize his differences with Bradley, however, Gore said Bradley's plan "would wipe out the entire $1 trillion surplus over the next 10 years and 'shred the social safety net'" (Connolly/Balz, Washington Post, 10/28). Gore cited a new estimate by Kenneth Thorpe, a health care scholar at Emory University, who said the plan would exceed $1 trillion, leaving no money "to keep Medicare solvent." Gore added, "Medicare cannot be an afterthought. Otherwise you are putting Medicare at risk" (Davis/Harwood, Wall Street Journal, 10/28). Gore conceded that "Bradley's plan would give health insurance to 'a few more people' than his own plan," but, "I think the cost is way excessive" (Fournier, Associated Press, 10/28). Adding to "what seemed a carefully planned attack," Gore urged voters "to be cautious about 'proposals that may sound great but for which there is no money'" (Kranish, Boston Globe, 10/28).
Bradley Holds His Own
For his part, Bradley disputed Gore's assertions, saying the expense would be covered by anticipated federal budget surpluses. He offered further options for funding his own plan, saying that "it will come through the enormous savings that we can get through the application of technology to the medical system. By simply moving things from paper to Internet, you will be able to achieve significant savings" (Enda/Kuhnhenn, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/28). Bradley also defended the scope of his plan, saying, "You ought to have big solutions to big problems because that is what America is all about," (Brosnan, Scripps Howard/Denver Rocky Mountain News, 10/27). And while Bradley "never directly responded to the vice president's charge that such a level of new spending could harm the economy ... [he] needled Gore for not offering more detailed estimates for the cost of his own agenda." The Los Angeles Times reports that "Gore's emphasis on the issue suggests that the cost of Bradley's agenda ... is likely to become an increasing focus in the days ahead" (Brownstein, 10/28).