Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. John Kerry Discusses Veterans’ Health Care Services
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Wednesday discussed veterans' health care issues at an airport rally in Little Rock, Ark., saying that President Bush has reduced funding for Veterans Administration health programs, a move that has made care unavailable to hundreds of thousands of veterans, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. Kerry said, "The strength of this country comes from people like this who were willing to serve. They deserve what their country promises them" (Glover, AP/Long island Newsday, 5/13). The rally was the last stop of a four-day, health care-focused campaign launched on Monday (California Healthline, 5/12). According to the Washington Post, Kerry has used his health care speeches this week to "affirm [his] commitment to a priority among voters." The Post reports that Kerry is "trying to capitalize" on health care's position as an issue with which "voters say they trust Democrats more by a wide margin." Rob Laszewski, a nonpartisan analyst who follows health care politics, said that Kerry "is trying to make health care a major issue" in the coming election. He added, "He doesn't have the national security advantage, the war on Iraq advantage, but he's got the health care advantage."
According to the Post, Kerry's health care plan "is far more expensive and would help far more people" than the Bush administration's proposals (Goldstein, Washington Post, 5/13). Kerry's health care plan would allow small businesses to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and 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).
The Bush administration is trying to "blunt" Kerry's health care advantage, the Post reports (Washington Post, 5/13). On Wednesday, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said Kerry's plan represented a "big chunk" of a 1994 health care reform proposal by now Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) (Ramer, AP/Manchester Union Leader, 5/13). Republicans also have "insist[ed] that Kerry cannot pay for his plan without raising taxes," the Orlando Sentinel reports. Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said that Kerry's plans would cost "north of a trillion dollars over 10 years" (Silva, Orlando Sentinel, 5/13). Bill Shaheen, Kerry's New Hampshire campaign chair said, "[T]he Bush administration has never made health care a priority. If John Kerry were president, you wouldn't hear him running for re-election still saying, 'I have a plan.' You would have results" (AP/Manchester Union Leader, 5/13).
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Wednesday reported on speeches on health care by Bush and Kerry this week (Holman, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 5/12). The program also included an interview with Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, about the public's "changing views" of the two presidential candidates (Ifill, "News Hour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 5/12). The complete transcript of the segment is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. CNN's "Inside Politics" on Wednesday reported on whether it is difficult for Kerry to "get traction" for his focus on health care while much of the public's attention is on Iraq (Wallace, "Inside Politics," CNN, 5/12). The complete transcript is available online.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.