Democratic Presidential Candidates Promote Health Care Plans at Iowa Forum
Six Democratic presidential candidates on Wednesday discussed Medicare, access to health care, prescription drug costs and other issues in a two-hour forum in Des Moines, Iowa, sponsored by AARP, the Los Angeles Times reports (Mehren, Los Angeles Times, 10/16). Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.), Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (Ill.) "spent much of the ... forum" promoting in brief segments "their own complex plans to provide health coverage," the New York Times reports (Halbfinger, New York Times, 10/16). Former Army General Wesley Clark, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.) and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who have "polled poorly in Iowa," did not attend, the Boston Globe reports (Schweitzer, Boston Globe, 10/16). The Washington Post reports that Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards reiterated their criticism of Dean for reportedly supporting cuts to Medicare as part of a Republican-backed budget measure in the mid-1990s (Connolly, Washington Post, 10/16). Gephardt and Kerry in recent weeks have cited news reports that Dean in 1995 said he "fully subscribed" to reducing Medicare spending growth and that he reportedly supported a portion of a Republican-supported budget plan to do that. That plan would have reduced the Medicare spending growth rate by about $260 billion over seven years (California Healthline, 10/1). Dean on Wednesday said he is the "only person here who actually has delivered health care," referring to a health insurance program he signed into law in Vermont that covers about 99% of the state's children (Los Angeles Times, 10/16). Dean added that he did not want to debate "who said what 15 years ago. The question is who's going to do what now" (Washington Post, 10/16).
The candidates fielded questions about Medicare, nursing home care and Social Security from an audience of about 700 people, the Charlotte Observer reports (Funk, Charlotte Observer, 10/16). Kucinich and Mosley Braun "answered nearly every question with a pitch for single-payer health care," according to the Post. "We've got to stop tinkering with this broken system," Moseley Braun said (Washington Post, 10/16). Gephardt promoted his health plan and said that Kerry's and Dean's plans would cause employers to stop offering health coverage to employees. Kerry responded that "we're not going to be able to find the $228 billion" that Gephardt's plan is expected to cost, adding that his plan would cost $75 billion (New York Times, 10/16). Dean and Gephardt both said they supported plans to allow the reimportation of lower-cost U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada. All six candidates criticized the Bush administration, saying it has "failed to push hard enough to expand insurance coverage or lower the cost of prescription drugs," the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 10/16). Gephardt said, "We're going to take on a Republican Party that's been bought by the pharmaceutical industry. We're gonna beat 'em and put policy in that's good for seniors." The forum occurred as AARP on Wednesday released a poll of 802 likely primary voters in Iowa indicating that the economy, Social Security and health care were the top voter concerns (Washington Post, 10/16). CNN's "Inside Politics" on Wednesday reported on the forum (Crowley, "Inside Politics," CNN, 10/15). The full transcript of the program 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.