Candidates for President Discuss Health Care Plans
Summaries of several recent developments in presidential campaigns related to health care appear below.
- Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.): Edwards on Sunday at a town hall meeting in Laconia, N.H., discussed a provision in his health care proposal that would delay direct-to consumer advertisements for new medications for two years, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. In addition, the provision would require ads for new medications to include more information about their side effects and comparative effectiveness and would increase penalties for pharmaceutical companies that use misleading ads. According to Edwards, the provision would ensure that "salesmanship is not trumping the facts, so people learn what the real risks are associated with these drugs." He said that pharmaceutical companies currently spend twice as much on ads for medications as they spend on research and development. Edwards said, "Basically, they do what they want, and they're driving up demand for the most expensive and most profitable drugs," adding, "The next president needs to deal with this issue" (Ramer, AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/28).
- Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R): Giuliani on Monday in New Hampshire began an ad campaign that includes a radio ad and a direct-mail piece about his health care proposal targeted at independent voters who "believe firmly in the mantra of less government and lower taxes," the Washington Post reports. The radio ad, which refers to his experience with prostate cancer, says that, because he lived in the U.S., he had an 82% chance of survival, compared with a 44% chance had he lived in Britain. In the ad, Giuliani says, "You and I should be making the decisions about what kind of health care we get with our doctors, not with a government bureaucrat." The direct-mail piece says, "Rudy Giuliani's health care plan offers freedom to choose a health plan that fits your needs and the freedom to keep it if you change jobs." Below the text, a graphic says that the proposal is not "government-mandated health insurance" and does not require a tax increase (Cillizza/Murray, Washington Post, 10/28).
- Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.): Thompson has established himself as the "most impassioned candidate on entitlement spending" and plans to announce a proposal for "entitlement reform in the coming weeks," the Christian Science Monitor reports. Thompson previously has proposed a possible increase in fees for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries to help address the issue. Last week during a speech to the Club for Growth, he said, "The one thing that all the experts agree on ... is that we're in an unsustainable position economically with regard to these programs," adding, "You'd think that would be the biggest thing we could talk about, other than national security. So we've got to talk about it" (Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor, 10/29).
The New York Times on Monday examined how the health care industry has made more campaign contributions to Democratic presidential candidates -- whose health care proposals have "caused deep anxiety" to some areas of the industry -- because of a "growing sense that the Democrats are in a strong position to win the White House next year." In the first nine months of 2007, the health care industry has contributed about $11 million to candidates -- $6.5 million to Democrats and $4.8 million to Republicans.
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Edwards have announced proposals to expand health insurance to all U.S. residents that would place the health care industry "in the crosshairs," the Times reports. According to the Times, many health care providers disagree with many details of the proposals but "endorse the goal of some sort of universal coverage," and many "appreciate the fact" that Democrats are "giving a higher priority to health care as a campaign issue."
Mary Nell Lehnhard, senior vice president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, said, "As long as the candidates are willing to talk to us, we can educate them."
Phillip Blando, a political strategist, said, "For many people in the industry, these contributions are a defensive measure."
Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said, "Everybody in the industry knows that health care reform is on its way, and you have only two decisions: sit on the sidelines or get on the field" (Hernandez/Pear, New York Times, 10/29).
Forty-six percent of U.S. adults who responded to a recent survey conducted by Scripps Howard and Ohio University said that Democrats were more likely to improve access to health care than Republicans, Scripps Howard/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The survey, which included responses from 811 adults nationwide collected from Sept 24. to Oct. 10, has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
According to the survey, 19% of respondents said that Republicans were more likely to improve access to health care than Democrats (Scripps Howard/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/29).
Presidential candidates Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Thursday at a 90-minute town hall meeting in Sioux City, Iowa, discussed proposals to make health care more affordable and accessible to low-income U.S. residents, the Des Moines Register reports (Strong, Des Moines Register, 10/26).
At the meeting, sponsored by AARP, McCain said, "Our job is to make it affordable and available and not set government mandates and big government programs," adding, "If you like that system, I would urge you to go to Canada or England" (Glover, Associated Press, 10/25). McCain also addressed entitlement programs. He said, "The dirty secret in America today is that Medicare and Social Security are going broke and they're not going to be there for future generations of young Americans, and we owe them the responsibility to make hard choices now" (Des Moines Register, 10/26).
Huckabee also expressed opposition to a national health care system. "I don't trust the government with my health, and I don't trust insurance companies with my health. I trust me," he said. Huckabee added that the health care system should focus on preventive care. He said that treatment for chronic diseases accounts for 80% of U.S. health care spending. "Everything becomes easier when we become a healthier country," Huckabee said (Associated Press, 10/25). According to Huckabee, "We don't have a health care crisis in America, we have a health crisis" (Hayworth, Sioux City Journal, 10/25).