Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) Launches Health Care-Focused Campaign
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Monday launched a four-day, health care-centered campaign, saying that President Bush has "ignor[ed] a health care crisis in America" and that his proposals would "cure a 'badly broken' system," the Los Angeles Times reports (La Ganga, Los Angeles Times, 5/11). At Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, the first stop in the campaign, Kerry said, "We need a president who understands our health care crisis is unacceptable. We need a president who has a plan to fix it. I do." (Johnson, Boston Globe, 5/11). "Instead of talking about universal access and the estimated 43 million uninsured Americans," Kerry "emphasized costs, a hot-button issue for both middle-class voters and businesses," the New York Times reports. Kerry stood before a banner that read: "Affordable health care means a stronger America" (Wilgoren, New York Times, 5/11). Kerry did not introduce any new proposals, but he "spotlighted his plan to reduce health care costs" (Los Angeles Times, 5/11). His plan is designed to cut costs "by retooling or expanding existing government programs," the Washington Post reports (VandeHei, Washington Post, 5/11). Kerry would expand a range of public health insurance programs such as SCHIP and Medicaid (California Healthline, 5/6). The plan also calls for the federal government to assume the cost of workers whose care exceeds $50,000 per year. Kerry also plans to control costs by giving the HHS secretary the ability to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies for Medicare beneficiaries; allowing people in the United States to buy drugs from Canada, where they are often cheaper; and prohibiting people from filing malpractice lawsuits unless a specialist determined that a reasonable claim existed. His plan, which would cost an estimated $653 billion over the next decade, would be paid by repealing Bush's tax cuts for families with annual incomes higher than $200,000 (Los Angeles Times, 5/11). Kerry said, "Mine is a plan that will cut soaring premiums, cut the waste, cut the greed, and cut Americans a good deal" (New York Times, 5/11). Kerry intends to target key battleground states with his health care-focused campaign, meeting in Kentucky, Florida and Arkansas with health care workers and those who have struggled to pay for care (California Healthline, 5/10).
To "buttress the argument that Mr. Bush has done little to control health care costs," Kerry's campaign handed out a 13-page report Monday, detailing "grim statistics, most from recent research by the Kaiser Family Foundation," the New York Times reports (New York Times, 5/11). Kerry also used data from the U.S. Census and HHS, according to the Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times, 5/11). According to the report released by Kerry, the average health plan premium for a family of four has increased $2,777 since 2000, bringing the total cost to $9,549 per year (Washington Post, 5/11). The campaign also e-mailed a 50-second video message to about 250,000 supporters (Los Angeles Times, 5/11). The video shows Bush in January 2000, saying, "I'll have the goal, the idea of making sure people have got affordable health care and insurance policies to make sure they're able to pay for them." The video states, "Under Bush, family premiums have increased $2,777," and "Bush has no plan to lower rates" (Glover, AP/Miami Herald, 5/10).
While Bush officials "did not dispute the numbers" that Kerry's campaign cited, they said "those costs have been on an upward trajectory for more than three decades, not just three years," the Post reports (Washington Post, 5/11). According to the New York Times, the Bush campaign also "accused Kerry of skipping votes" on the Medicare legislation while he was campaigning. Stephanie Cutter, Kerry's communications director, said that Kerry had returned to Capitol Hill to try to block the prescription drug bill, but "when that effort failed, and it was clear the bill would pass, Kerry felt it was more important to get back on the campaign trail and talk to seniors about their needs and how to address those needs" (New York Times, 5/11). In a conference call with reporters, House Ways and Means Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said, "John Kerry's health care plan would raise taxes and increase government bureaucracy without doing anything to decrease health care costs for American families" (Boston Globe, 5/11). Thomas, "speaking on behalf of the Bush campaign, said that Kerry had not pushed [such] ideas during his 20 years in the Senate," the Washington Post reports (Washington Post, 5/11). Bush's aides added that Kerry has not fully detailed how he would pay for all of his health care plans (Memmott, USA Today, 5/11).
The following broadcast programs included segments on Kerry's health proposals:
- CNN's "Inside Politics" on Monday reported on health care proposals from Kerry and Bush (Woodruff, "Inside Politics," CNN, 5/10). The complete transcript is available online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition" on Tuesday included an interview with Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the Miami Herald, and Carl Wernicke, opinion page editor of the Pensacola New Journal, about presidential campaign issues in Florida, including health care (Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 5/11). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.