Democratic Presidential Nominee Sen. John Kerry, President Bush Discuss Health Care Costs at Campaign Events
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) and President Bush on Thursday addressed domestic issues, such as health care costs, at campaign events, the Washington Post reports (Milbank/Fahri, Washington Post, 9/10). In an interview and at a forum on health care in Iowa, Kerry said that premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance have risen by 11.2% in 2004, the fourth consecutive year of double-digit increases, according to a new study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust. Last year, premiums increased by 13.9%, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The study also found that the rate of workers who received health insurance through their employers decreased to 61% in 2004 from 65% in 2001 and that at least five million fewer jobs offered health coverage in 2004 than in 2001.
Kerry said, "Five million people have lost their health insurance under George Bush. America can do better." Kerry also said he would work to lower health care costs, adding, "Health care just has this unlimited ability to keep going up every year, and people can't keep up with it. President Bush for four years has had an opportunity to deal with this, and he has no plan at all."
According to the AP/Sun, as part of his health care plan, Kerry has proposed that the federal government assume 75% of catastrophic health care costs, which his campaign estimates would help reduce health insurance premiums by 10% (Glover, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/9). Kerry has said that he would help finance his health care plan with the repeal of tax cuts implemented by Bush for families whose annual incomes exceed $200,000.
Kerry said of Bush, "All he wants to do is fight for a tax cut for the wealthy. ... His priority is to screw up today's budgets. He has no plan for doing anything about (health care costs). He's been busy losing people's coverage" (Washington Post, 9/10). At a campaign event in New Orleans on Thursday afternoon, Kerry said, "When I am president, America will stop being the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, connected and the elected. It is a right for all Americans" (Hurt, Washington Times, 9/10).
At a campaign event in the Philadelphia area, Bush said that Kerry has contributed to higher health costs through his support of trial attorneys involved in medical malpractice lawsuits. Bush added, "I don't think you can be pro-doctor, pro-patient and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. I think you have to choose. My opponent made his choice" with his selection of Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), a former trial attorney, as the Democratic vice presidential nominee (Washington Post, 9/10).
The Bush campaign also responded to recent criticism from Kerry about a 17% increase in Medicare Part B premiums in a new television advertisement. According to the ad, Kerry "actually voted for higher Medicare premiums before he came out against them." In addition, the ad states that Kerry voted five times to raise Part B premiums and that he missed 36 of 38 votes on Medicare-related legislation last year, the AP/Sun reports (Glover, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/10).
Steve Schmidt, a spokesperson for the Bush campaign, said, "As John Kerry talks about Medicare premiums, it is important to remember that the Medicare premiums are mandated by a formula that John Kerry voted for. This formula is set in law and based on the cost of health care. That is why the president is focused on reducing the underlying costs of our health care system" (Washington Times, 9/10). According to the Post, Kerry aides "did not dispute the votes" discussed in the ad but "portrayed their candidate as having fought for Medicare patients" (Washington Post, 9/10).
The decision by Kerry to spend "two days in a row talking about health care" indicates that he "thinks he can use rising medical and prescription drug costs to sway undecided voters as much as joblessness and the economy," the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Sarah Bianchi, policy director for the Kerry campaign, said that health care is "in the top three issues," adding, "We think Bush has a huge vulnerability on it."
Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that health care could become an important issue for voters in states with older populations and close races such as Florida and Iowa. He said, "It's all about costs" and the Medicare law, adding, "That's what you hammer on." In addition, Altman said that prescription drug reimportation is a "winner issue for the public," adding, "They're all for it. It's a small symbolic issue with big political punch."
Robert Blendon, a health policy expert for the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, said, "What's important is the people who say health care is an issue, they're not identical. When we talk about what people want, they're somewhat in different places" (Dalrymple, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/10).
Edwards also addressed high health costs and the Kaiser Family Foundation/HRET study on Thursday at campaign events, the AP/Boston Globe reports. In New Hampshire, Edwards said, "Dick Cheney said at the Republican convention with a straight face that they've made health care more affordable and accessible for American people. I don't know what America or American people he's talking about, but it hasn't happened in New Hampshire where health insurance premiums are up." He added, "Your paycheck's going down and your health insurance premiums are going up. Why in the world would you rehire this guy to be your president? They don't have any kind of plan that's going to solve this health care problem."
However, Maria Comella, a spokesperson for the Bush campaign, said, "While Sen. Kerry chooses to line the pockets of trial lawyers and let patients foot the bill, President Bush understands that medical malpractice liability reform means greater access to affordable health care for more Americans" (Ramer, AP/Boston Globe, 9/10).
Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Kerry, said in an interview with the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal that "only an idiot" would not support his health care plan. She added that lawmakers who oppose his health care plan would lose in the November election, according to the AP/Arizona Republic (AP/Arizona Republic, 9/10).
- CBS' "Evening News": The program on Thursday as part of the "What Does It Mean to You?" series about the positions of presidential candidates on different issues reported on the positions of Kerry and Bush prescription drug reimportation. The segment includes comments from Kerry; Bush; Montgomery, Ala., Mayor Bobby Bright (D); Alan Holmer, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; and Jim Morrison, city auditor for Montgomery (Andrews, "Evening News," CBS, 9/9). The complete transcript of the segment is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The program on Thursday reported on the recent focus of Kerry and Bush on domestic issues such as health care. The segment includes comments from Bush (Liasson, "All Things Considered," NPR, 9/9). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The program on Thursday reported on new ads from the Kerry and Bush campaigns. The segment includes comments from Ken Goldstein of the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project and excerpts from the ads, some of which address health care issues (McChesney, "All Things Considered," NPR, 9/9). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The program on Friday reported on recent statements from Kerry and Bush on economic issues, such as increased health care costs. The segment includes comments from Kerry and Bush (Liasson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 9/10). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.