Democratic Presidential Candidates Tackle Health Care in AARP Debate
Five democratic presidential candidates on Thursday participated in a "freewheeling" debate in Davenport, Iowa, during which all five said that they would seek to expand health insurance to all U.S. residents, with most "arguing that costs could be largely offset by streamlining" Medicare, the Wall Street Journal reports.
During the debate, sponsored by AARP and moderated by PBS correspondent Judy Woodruff, former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) said of the health care proposal announced on Monday by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), "It's a very good proposal. It's very similar to mine" (Cooper, Wall Street Journal, 9/21). Edwards also said that pharmaceutical companies and health insurers, from which Clinton has accepted large campaign contributions, have prevented the implementation of proposals to expand health insurance to all residents. He added, "We desperately need a president who is not working on compromising with these people" (Glover, AP/Houston Chronicle, 9/21).
According to the Washington Post Blog, Clinton "indirectly rebutted Edwards' claim that she was following him on the issue" by saying, "Well, been there, done that." She said, "It was kind of lonely back then. I think it's tremendous that we have unanimity here" (Kornblut, Washington Post Blog, 9/21). She also said that lawmakers cannot remove pharmaceutical companies and health insurers from the health care reform process because the system, "unfortunately, makes a lot of money for a lot of people."
Sen. Joe Biden (Del.) said, "It's not the plan, it's the man or woman pushing it" that will determine whether lawmakers can implement a proposal to expand health insurance to all residents (Leys, Des Moines Register, 9/21). He added, "What's changed to make you think Hillary is going to be able to put together the 15% of Republicans" required to implement such a proposal? (AP/Houston Chronicle, 9/21).
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said, "I'm the only one who has dealt with health care firsthand as a governor" (Lovley, The Politico, 9/20). Richardson said that he would fund his proposal to expand health insurance to all residents through savings from increased efficiency in the health care system and an increased focus on preventive care, rather than through increased taxes (Des Moines Register, 9/21).
Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) also participated in the debate. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) declined to participate because of his pledge to attend only debates sponsored by the Democratic Party.
AARP did not invite Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) and former Sen. Mike Gravel (Alaska) to participate in the debate because they do not have paid staff or a campaign office in Iowa (Wall Street Journal, 9/21).
Iowa Public Television video of the debate is available online (Iowa Public Television, 9/20).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Friday reported on the debate. The segment includes comments from Clinton, Edwards, AARP Iowa Director Bruce Koeppl and AARP members who attended the debate (Russell, "Morning Edition," NPR, 9/21). Audio of the segment is available online.