Democratic Presidential Nominee Sen. John Kerry Focuses on Health Care in Colorado Campaign Speech
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Friday in a speech at a Colorado high school "blasted Bush as siding with the pharmaceutical industry" in the debate over prescription drug importation and said that he would support a program that "would allow Americans to buy cheaper prescription drugs from abroad," the Denver Post reports. Kerry -- who was speaking to an audience of 1,800 supporters at the "town hall meeting," including union members, health care workers and high school students -- focused "most of his comments" on his plan for health care reform, the Post reports.
"Health care shouldn't be something that is a privilege for the wealthy or the connected," Kerry said, adding, "Health care, I believe, is a right for all Americans." Kerry's visit marked the fourth time in the past three months that he has appeared in Colorado, where about one-third of the electorate are registered as independent voters.
Danny Diaz, a campaign spokesperson for President Bush, said in a statement released on Friday, "John Kerry's $1.5 trillion government-run health care plan would place costs on the taxpayers' backs while giving decision-making power to government bureaucrats."
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said health care is one of Kerry's "two pillars" in the election, adding, "Essentially, he has got to win this election by convincing Americans that he has a better plan on the economy and a better plan on Iraq" (Hudson, Denver Post, 9/17).
Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) on Sunday delivered a "sharp blast at the drug industry" during a "fiery speech" in Chester County, Penn., which "sits amid one of the biggest drug manufacturing regions in the country," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The pharmaceutical industry provides 22,000 jobs in the area and is "one of the few sectors" in the local economy that has "grown steadily" in recent years, with drug company jobs up 17% over the past 10 years, the Inquirer reports.
However, Edwards "roused a crowd of several thousand people" by charging that the Bush administration had sided with drug firms to block legislation that would have allowed the government to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs through Medicare and would have legalized reimportation, the Inquirer reports. "The drug companies were against it. Of course they were against it. They wanted a prescription drug bill where they can charge anything they wanted," Edwards said, adding, "George Bush had a choice. He could stand with you, or he could stand with the big drug companies and insurance companies." Edwards, noting that the state had lost 160,000 manufacturing jobs since Bush took office, said, "You know, the drug companies tell us they are spending all their money on research and development. Well, turn your TV on. They spend a lot more money on advertising and marketing than on research and development."
Bush campaign spokesperson Kevin Madden said Kerry and Edwards "are trying to tear down the wage-payers in the local economies. It is yet another indication of how out of touch John Kerry and John Edwards are with the voters of Pennsylvania" (Infield, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/20).
Five Democratic governors on Friday said Bush's policies have resulted in "soaring health care costs" that are affecting job creation efforts and "endanger[ing] their state economies, adding that their states would be better off under a John Kerry presidency," the AP/Detroit News reports. The governors spoke at a Democratic Governors' Association policy conference in Michigan that focused on the effect of health care costs on the economy.
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, DGA chair; Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius; and Maine Gov. John Baldacci said Kerry's health plan would reduce health care costs for individuals and employers and provide small business owners with tax incentives to offer health care to employees.
"We have 760,000 people in (Pennsylvania) still employed in manufacturing, and the competitive disadvantage that these spiraling health care costs have been (over) ... the last four years is one of the things that is breaking the back of manufacturing." Rendell said. He added, "I find it personally outrageous that President Bush has started ads in Pennsylvania ... touting his plan to provide health care for the American people. He's been president for three-and-a-half years. He's had a Republican Senate and a Republican House, and he has done nothing."
Vilsack said, "President Bush has an extraordinary record of failure in this area" (Barks Hoffman, AP/Detroit News, 9/18).
Former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) on Thursday told veterans in West Virginia that Bush plans in 2006 to reduce funding for Veteran's Administration hospitals by $1 billion, adding that such a reduction is "not the definition of patriotism." Cleland, a Vietnam veteran and triple amputee, said, "This president is spending $1 billion a week in Iraq" and is planning "$6 million in cuts to three VA hospitals here in West Virginia."
Cleland said that about 8,000 veterans in the state were uninsured. He said, "George Bush's health plan is faith-based. You have to pray you don't get sick" (Nyden, Charleston Gazette, 9/17).
The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday examined problems with the U.S. health care system, which has become one of the most important issues in the 2004 election because of "accelerating" cost pressures that are placing a "squeeze" on "employers to reduce or eliminate insurance for workers." According to the Inquirer, "there is little pressure in Washington for deep, structural change" in health care because of concerns about the war in Iraq and terrorism and political considerations.
The Inquirer also notes that for the 158 million insured U.S. residents, "the system continues to work reasonably well, so for the time being there is little urgency for change." The article is the first in a 10-part series that will examine the central issues in the election, including Medicare (Mondics, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/19).
The following articles also recently examined the impact of health care issues on the election.
- The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined the "relentless rise in health care costs," an issue that might "now be America's most pressing domestic problem." The Times also looked at Kerry's plan, which critics have said "would do more to shift than to reduce overall costs," and Bush's plan, which the president hopes would create more "prudent shoppers" for health care (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 9/20).
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday examined the new Medicare law, which was expected to give Bush a "campaign lift" but has instead received a "steady dose of political heat" from Kerry and other Democrats (Miller, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/20).
- The Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sunday looked at the health care plans proposed by Bush and Kerry and profiled some of the "real people" the candidates have used to "testify" on behalf of their reform proposals (Klein, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/19).
Several broadcast programs included reports on the presidential campaign and health care issues:
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The program on Friday reported on the debate between Bush and Kerry over how their health care policies would influence future Medicare financing. The segment includes comments from Bush; Kerry; Patricia Neuman, a vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and director of its Medicare Policy Project; Colin Roskey, former health policy adviser and counsel to the Senate Finance Committee and an informal adviser to the Bush campaign on health care issues; and Bruce Vladeck, former administrator of the Health Care Finance Administration -- now CMS -- and an informal adviser to the Kerry campaign on health care issues (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 9/17). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. The program's Web site includes transcripts of Dentzer's interviews with Neuman, Roskey and Vladek.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The program on Monday profiled Edwards, including his work as a trial lawyer and his plan for medical malpractice insurance reform. The segment includes comments from Edwards (Totenberg, "Morning Edition," NPR, 9/20). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday": The program on Sunday included an interview with Doyle McManus, Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, about issues in the presidential campaign, including health care (Hansen, "Weekend Edition Sunday," NPR, 9/19). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.