Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. John Kerry Criticizes President Bush for Efforts on Health Care Issues
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Thursday at a rally in Little Rock, Ark., criticized President Bush for "shortchanging the nation's medical care system," the Boston Globe reports. At the rally, held at the University of Arkansas Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging Kerry said to a group of 150 medical professionals and veterans, "We have the greatest health care in the world, the best, but we also have a system in crisis." He added, "We deserve leadership that doesn't just kind of stiff-arm it, pretend it's not there and shove it off to the side. We deserve leadership that wants to sit with doctors, to sit with health care delivery businesses, and bring people to the table and say, 'How do we do this smart?'" (Healy, Boston Globe, 5/14). Kerry also said that as president he would "mandate funding for veterans' health care in response to what he said were broken promises" by Bush, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports (Glover, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 5/14). The rally concluded a four-day, health care-focused campaign that Kerry conducted this week. Kerry in large part used the campaign to discuss his plan to extend health coverage to the estimated 43 million uninsured U.S. residents (Memmott, USA Today, 5/12). Under the plan, small businesses could participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and the federal government would provide them with tax credits to cover as much as 50% of the cost of health insurance premiums for employees who make less than 300% of the federal poverty level, or about $55,000 for a family of four. In addition, the plan would expand public health insurance programs such as Medicaid and SCHIP. The plan also calls for the federal government to assume the costs of workers whose annual health care expenses exceed $50,000. Kerry has said that he would finance the plan, which would cost an estimated $653 billion over 10 years, through the repeal of tax cuts enacted by Bush for families with annual incomes higher than $200,000 (California Healthline, 5/12).
Republicans criticized the plan, which they said would "lead to new government regulation and essentially transfer to the federal government the responsibility for a huge share of health care spending," the New York Times reports (Toner, New York Times, 5/14). Bush campaign spokesperson Steve Schmidt also said that "Kerry and his allies were playing politics with veterans' benefits," the Globe reports (Boston Globe, 5/14). Schmidt said, "John Kerry's attack on the president's strong record of providing for our nation's veterans is at odds with reality." According to Schmidt, Bush has increased the Department of Veterans Affairs health care budget by more than 40% since he took office (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 5/14).
According to the Times, the health care-focused campaign that Kerry conducted this week was "not just another exercise in partisan maneuvering. Nowhere are the policy differences between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush more apparent" than on health care issues. Health care analysts said that the plans proposed by Kerry and Bush differ "substantially in cost, the number of uninsured they hope to cover, the methods they would use and the underlying philosophy," the Times reports. Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute, said, "The president's proposals remain very modest, while Sen. Kerry is willing to make health a major priority of his administration" (New York Times, 5/14).
NBC's "Nightly News" on Thursday reported on efforts by Kerry to remain focused on health care and other domestic issues as the public and media focus on issues related to Iraq. The segment includes comments from Kerry and Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (O'Donnell, "Nightly News," NBC, 5/13). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media. NPR's "All Things Considered" on Thursday also reported on efforts by Kerry to remain focused on health care and other domestic issues. The segment includes comments from Kerry and Bush campaign Chair Marc Racicot (Horsley, "All Things Considered," NPR, 5/13). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.