Democratic Presidential Candidates Discuss Health Care at AFL-CIO Forum
Democratic presidential candidates yesterday called for expanded health care coverage and "squabbled" over their health proposals at a forum sponsored by the AFL-CIO in Chicago, the New York Times reports. The 90-minute forum was held as most of the candidates made "an extravagant bid" for the official endorsement of the labor union, including calls for some restrictions on free trade and criticism of reduced federal funding to states under the Bush administration. While the candidates differed on the details of their health care proposals, they "largely endorsed" the views held by the AFL-CIO, the Times reports. Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.), whose support from the labor union is an important component of his election strategy, "struggled" in his effort to win the union's endorsement, according to the Times (Nagourney, New York Times, 8/6). The candidates also used questions about health care to expand their criticism of President Bush, the AP/Boston Globe reports (Strope, AP/Boston Globe, 8/6). Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) said the money dedicated to Bush's tax cut could be "better spent" on universal health care. "The British and the French and the Germans and the Italians and the Israelis and the Canadians and the Irish -- even the Costa Ricans -- have health insurance for everybody, and we ought not to be second-class citizens in the industrialized world any more," Dean said (Hernandez-Gomez, "NPR News," NPR, 8/6). The AFL-CIO said that Gephardt is currently the only Democratic candidate with a chance to win the union's endorsement, adding that it may make no endorsement. The labor union may hold another meeting this fall if additional time is needed to reach a decision (AP/Boston Globe, 8/6). The AFL-CIO forum comes after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the largest U.S. unions, with 1.3 million members, on Friday announced that it will endorse Gephardt for president. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the Seafarers International Union of North America and the American Maritime Officers also endorsed Gephardt last week. The nine unions that have endorsed Gephardt have a combined 1.4 million members (California Healthline, 8/1).
In related news, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), while addressing the Minnesota Nurses Association in St. Paul, yesterday said the Bush administration's proposed overtime regulations changes would harm nurses in the state, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. The administration has estimated that overhauling the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires non-managerial employees to get time-and-a-half pay for each hour they work over forty hours in a week, could cost 644,000 workers the right to overtime pay; however, Democrats and labor unions argue that the changes could affect as many as eight million workers. Jean Ross, a spokesperson for the MNA, said that while the changes would not affect the association's 17,000 members because their overtime pay is guaranteed in labor contracts, the changes could endanger overtime pay for 50,000 Minnesota nurses who are not represented by the association. Before addressing the association, Kerry signed his name to a protest petition on his campaign Web site and invited the nurses to do the same (Salisbury, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 8/6).
CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday included an interview with Dean. "I believe that we ought to have health insurance for every single American," Dean said. In addition, Dean said he does not "like it when politicians interfere in medicine," adding that as a result of that position he is "very pro-choice" and would initiate FDA studies of medical marijuana use in cancer and HIV/AIDS patients if elected (King, "Larry King Live," CNN, 8/4). The full transcript of the segment 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.