Democratic Candidates for President Debate Health Care Issues
Democratic presidential candidates during the second debate of the campaign on Sunday discussed health care, among other issues, the Washington Post reports (Kornblut/Balz, Washington Post, 6/4).
The debate, which took place at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, "addressed a wide range of questions" that also included the Iraq war, immigration and terrorism, the Baltimore Sun reports (West, Baltimore Sun, 6/4).
"Although eight candidates participated, much of the focus was on" the current frontrunners -- former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), according to the Los Angeles Times.
Edwards, who has issued a health care, was "on the offense" on the issue of health care during the debate, the Times reports. He questioned the stance of candidates who proposed expanded health coverage without increased spending. "I believe you cannot cover everybody in America, create a more efficient health care system, cover the cracks -- you know, getting rid of things like pre-existing conditions and making sure that mental health is treated the same as physical health -- I don't think you can do all those things for nothing," Edwards said.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson disagreed on the need for higher taxes, noting that coverage was expanded in New Mexico via existing government programs and efforts to boost preventive care (Finnegan/Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 6/4).
Edwards during the debate also criticized the health plan by Obama because it would not require that people purchase health insurance (Calmes/Cooper, Wall Street Journal, 6/4).
Edwards said, "I believe unless we have a law requiring that every man, woman and child in America be covered, we're going to have millions of people who aren't covered" (Los Angeles Times, 6/4). Edwards added that Obama's plan "will leave about 15 million people uncovered."
Obama noted that California has mandatory auto insurance, yet 25% of state residents lack coverage "because they can't afford it" (Wolf/Memmott, USA Today, 6/4). Obama said that he prefers to make insurance more affordable for average U.S. residents rather than make it mandatory. He said, "My belief is that most families want health care, but they can't afford it."
Clinton, who has issued a portion of her plan, during the debate said that she was "thrilled" that Democrats had again taken up the issue of universal health coverage after the failed attempt at passing such legislation during her husband's presidency in 1994.
She said, "You've got to have the political will -- a broad coalition of business and labor, doctors, nurses, hospitals -- everybody standing firm when the inevitable attacks come from the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies that don't want to change the system because they make so much money out of it" (Washington Post, 6/4).
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) noted his belief in "a government-run not-for-profit health care system."
The debate was sponsored by CNN, the Manchester Union Leader and WMUR-TV.
Ten Republican presidential candidates will debate at the same location on Tuesday (Los Angeles Times, 6/4). Also participating in the Democratic debate were Sens. Joseph Biden (Del.) and Christopher Dodd (Conn.), and former Sen. Mike Gravel (Alaska) (Washington Post, 6/4).
Two newspapers recently published articles related to candidates' views on health care. Summaries appear below.
- St. Paul Pioneer Press: Clinton at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis on Friday stressed the need for electronic health records, the Pioneer Press reports. Clinton said that implementation of EHRs would save the U.S. health care system $80 billion a year by reducing paperwork, redundant care and medical errors. Clinton said that her ultimate aim is to eliminate $120 billion in waste in the U.S. health care system, adding that she would use the money to subsidize health care coverage for people who cannot afford it (Olson, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 6/1).
- Wall Street Journal: The Journal on Saturday examined how "Democratic presidential hopefuls are once again embracing" universal health care and are "following the lead of some Republican governors." According to the Journal, "Rising public support for health care reform reflects increasing costs for employees and employers," in addition to the rising rate of uninsured (Timiraos, Wall Street Journal, 6/2).
Several newspapers recently published editorials and opinion pieces related to health care in the upcoming presidential election. Summaries appear below.
- Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times: "The best chance for reaching universal health care coverage is a system of shared responsibility that requires government, individuals and business to all contribute," Times columnist Brownstein writes in an opinion piece, citing Obama's plan in particular. Brownstein concludes, "The ideas percolating in the states, and among the leading Democratic presidential contenders, move in that direction. But unless big employers finally act on their stake in reform, health care for all is likely to remain out of reach" (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 5/30).
- Paul Krugman, New York Times: The health insurance plan proposed by Obama last week "is smart and serious," but it is not a plan for universal coverage -- "a point Mr. Edwards made in last night's debate," Times columnist Krugman writes in an opinion piece. Krugman writes, "On the whole, the Obama plan is better than I feared but not as comprehensive as I would have liked," adding, "It doesn't quell my worries that Mr. Obama's dislike of 'bitter and partisan' politics makes him too cautious. But at least he's come out with a plan." Krugman concludes, "Senator Clinton, we're waiting to hear from you" (Krugman, New York Times, 6/4).
- St. Petersburg Times: The health proposal introduced by Obama last week "speaks to two political necessities in 2008," a Times editorial states -- "First, any viable candidate will need a plan to control medical costs and expand coverage. Second, that plan must connect with the vast majority of Americans, who are insured and fed up with rising premiums." The editorial concludes, "Americans need affordable health care that is available to all, but the pitch for 'universal coverage' is still too easily distorted in the political arena. What Americans know is that health care is eating up household income and corporate profits, and everyone seems to be getting less and less in return. The next president will be expected to reverse that trend" (St. Petersburg Times, 6/4).
- Wall Street Journal: "What's most striking" about the health care proposals put forth by Democratic presidential candidates thus far is that they "spurn market reforms and the tax code, which is biased toward health spending," a Journal editorial states. The editorial concludes that "it will be interesting to see in the coming months how Mrs. Clinton negotiates what she calls 'the moral imperative' to extend universal coverage to all Americans. Given that most of her proposals so far would raise, not lower, the cost of health care, she might want to go back to the drawing board" (Wall Street Journal, 6/2).
- David Broder, Washington Post: "The shift of focus to preventive care and management of diseases offers encouragement to those legislators in both parties who are promoting more ambitious schemes to cover the uninsured," columnist Broder writes in a Post opinion piece. He concludes, "By promising reduced costs and better care for the majority of Americans who already have health insurance, this approach perhaps can build support for what still needs to be done to end the shame of America's broken health care system" (Broder, Washington Post, 6/3).
PBS' "Washington Week" on Friday included a discussion with Jackie Calmes, chief political reporter for the Wall Street Journal, about presidential candidates' health care proposals (Ifill, "Washington Week," PBS, 6/1). Video of the segment is available online. A transcript of the complete program will be available online Monday afternoon.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.