Democratic Candidates for President Tackle Health Care Issues
Eight Democratic presidential candidates on Thursday participated in a debate at Howard University that focused on "issues considered key to black voters," such as equality and HIV/AIDS, the Los Angeles Times reports.
PBS televised the debate, and it was moderated by PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley (Finnegan/Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 6/29).
During the debate, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) said that he would eliminate tax cuts proposed by President Bush and approved by Congress to "pay for universal health care and other initiatives" (Welch/Bello, USA Today, 6/29).
Obama said, "The problems of poverty, lack of health care, these are all -- lack of education opportunity, are all interconnected." He added, "And so it is important for us to look at the whole body here and make absolutely certain that we are providing the kinds of economic development opportunities and jobs that will create healthy communities, that we've got universal health care that ensures that people can get regular treatments."
Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) said, "We have two health care systems in America. And we know that race plays an enormous role in the problems that African-Americans face and the problems that African-Americans face with health care every single day." Edwards added, "There are huge health care disparities, which is why we need universal health care in this country."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) said that he supports a "not-for-profit health care" system in which "everyone's covered" (Debate transcript, CQ Transcriptions, 6/28).
The candidates also criticized the Bush administration's efforts to rebuild Gulf Coast areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) said the Bush administration "has basically neglected with almost criminal indifference the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, in particular New Orleans and the parishes."
According to the Los Angeles Times, most of the candidates agreed that the U.S. should increase funds for HIV/AIDS research and treatment.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) said that Bush administration expenditures on global HIV/AIDS programs are "relatively impressive" (Los Angeles Times, 6/29).
Clinton criticized the Bush administration response to the increased rate of HIV cases among black U.S. residents (Nagourney/Zeleny, New York Times, 6/28).
Edwards proposed a three-part plan to address HIV/AIDS in the U.S. The plan includes research for a cure, funds for treatment for all HIV-positive residents and Medicaid coverage for HIV/AIDS treatments (Balz/Kornblut, Washington Post, 6/29).
Republican presidential candidates will participate in a companion debate on Sept. 27 at Morgan State University (West, Baltimore Sun, 6/29).
Video of the debate is available online.
"Pick any major U.S. state, city and county and the health disparities from AIDS to asthma among people of color ages eight to 80 are likely to be painfully familiar," Smiley writes in a Chicago Sun-Times editorial. Smiley on Thursday moderated the Democratic presidential debate.
He states that "poverty and lack of health care and insurance [are] among the headlining factors" to such disparities. According to Smiley, challenges facing minority communities and people with low incomes include "lack of health facilities nearby, the cost of care and prescriptions, and the lack of neighborhood-based resources and social support to engage in healthy behaviors."
Smiley writes that costly health premiums and inadequate health benefits also make health services less attainable. Thursday's debate and the Republican debate to be held in September provide "an unprecedented opportunity for diverse perspectives to be a part of the national dialogue" on health care issues, Smiley concludes (Smiley, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/28).