Democratic Presidential Candidates Discuss Health Care Issues at Debate in Phoenix
During a debate in Phoenix on Thursday, the nine Democratic presidential candidates "argu[ed], often acrimoniously" over issues including Medicare and prescription drug coverage for seniors, the Washington Post reports (Balz, Washington Post, 10/10). The debate was sponsored by CNN and featured about an hour of questioning by the network's correspondents followed by questions from undecided Democratic voters (Seelye/Wilgoren, New York Times, 10/10). Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the two frontrunners in most polls, came under "sharp attack" from the other candidates, who "challenged their loyalty to the party and its principles," the Los Angeles Times reports. Clark was criticized for his stance on the war with Iraq and his earlier support of the Bush administration (Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 10/10). Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) again brought up charges that in 1995 Dean's positions on Medicare aligned with Republicans, who wanted to reduce the program's growth by $270 billion, the Post reports (Washington Post, 10/10). "He was in agreement with the Republican stand," Gephardt said. Dean replied that when he first entered the race, his rivals said that he was "too liberal" to win, and now they are comparing him to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 10/10). "I'm a strong supporter of Medicare," Dean said, adding, "I think Medicare is a badly run program, and I've said so repeatedly. We are not going to take away Medicare. ... What we are going to do, however, is change [Medicare and Social Security] so they can do better" (New York Times, 10/10). Dean and Gephardt called for universal health insurance, the Boston Globe reports (Healy/Johnson, Boston Globe, 10/10).
Dean also defended himself against material distributed by Sen. John Kerry's (Mass.) campaign suggesting that Dean had tried to eliminate prescription drug coverage for seniors as governor of Vermont, the New York Times reports. Dean called the claim "silly," explaining that he only told the Republican-controlled state Legislature that seniors would lose their drug coverage if lawmakers did not pass a cigarette tax, which they ultimately did. Kerry responded that the claim was "not silly, it's what he said" (Seelye/Wilgoren, New York Times, 10/10). Kerry also said that if he is elected president, he would increase the availability of "affordable prescription drugs," the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 10/10). The issue of drug coverage arose again when Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) asked a stroke survivor how long she had been without coverage for prescription drugs. She responded that she chose to pay for food rather than drugs for six months. During the question and answer period, several of the candidates responded to questions from a soldier by promising to improve health care for veterans, the New York Times reports. Also participating in the debate were Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (Ill.) (Seelye/Wilgoren, New York Times, 10/10).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.