Candidates for President Pitch Health Care Plans
Presidential candidates Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on Thursday spoke at health care forums in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Families USA and the Federation of American Hospitals. Summaries of their comments appear below.
- Biden: Biden said that the "biggest distinction" between his proposal to extend health coverage to all U.S. residents and those of other Democratic candidates is that his plan would reimburse employers, health insurers or associations for 75% of catastrophic health care costs, a provision that he said would reduce costs (Kapochunas, CQ Today, 10/25). In addition, he said that the proposal would not require U.S. residents to obtain health insurance (Goldstein, "Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 10/25). According to Biden, the debate about whether health care is a "right or a privilege" no longer exists. He added that "we need a national health care system of some kind that shares the responsibility of providing health care for everyone" for the U.S. to remain competitive globally (Kapochunas, CQ Today, 10/25). However, Biden said that his proposal would exclude undocumented immigrants, except in emergency cases (Montanaro , "First Read," MSNBC.com, 10/25).
- Kucinich: Kucinich said that he is the only candidate "who is talking about a single-payer, not-for-profit health care system," which he called "Medicare for all." Kucinich promoted a bill (HR 676) he has introduced in the House with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) that would establish a publicly financed and privately delivered health care system funded through the elimination inefficiencies in the current system and an increase in the Medicare part of the income tax from 1.45% to 4.75% (Horrigan, CQ Today, 10/25). According to Kucinich, the legislation would include undocumented immigrants (Alexovich, "The Caucus," New York Times, 10/25). He said, "One of the things we have to decide here is, is health care a right or is it a privilege?" adding, "If it's a right, then it's appropriate for the government to have a role in facilitating that right" (Horrigan, CQ Today, 10/25). In addition, Kucinich said that the health care proposals offered by other Democratic candidates are no different than plans offered by Republican candidates (Montanaro , "First Read," MSNBC.com, 10/25).
In other election news, presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) on Thursday at Indianola High School in Iowa said that as president he would seek to end overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans, the Indianola Record-Herald reports. According to Edwards, overpayments to MA plans lead to higher premiums for beneficiaries enrolled in fee-for-service Medicare.
Edwards said, "The problem is insurance companies are being paid more money for the services they provide under Medicare than the government is being paid."
In addition, Edwards promoted his health care proposal, which he said would establish "health care markets" to help consumers find the appropriate health plan. Edwards also said that the Bush administration has discouraged use of federal programs designed to increase access to health care.
"The Bush administration sets up so many hurdles to prevent people from taking advantage of the social safety net," he said, adding, "They want you to run from one agency to another because they think people will give up" (Winn, Indianola Record-Herald, 10/26).
Health care advisers to Republican candidates on Thursday at a forum in Washington, D.C, discussed the proposals of their respective candidates, with a focus on efforts to reduce costs, CQ HealthBeat reports. The advisers said that competition among health insurers would help reduce health care costs and that revisions to the tax code would make health insurance affordable for more U.S. residents.
None of the advisers said that their respective candidates support expansion of health insurance to all residents, but they said that all residents should have access to affordable coverage.
In addition, the advisers rejected claims made by Democratic candidates that Republican candidates would provide residents with tax breaks or credits to purchase private health insurance without regulatory changes needed to allow residents to find affordable coverage. They recommended regulatory changes that would allow residents to purchase health insurance across states lines (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 10/25).