Democratic Presidential Nominee Sen. John Kerry Shifts Campaign Focus To Health Care, Other Domestic Issues
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) this week in speeches and advertisements will "shift the battle with President Bush from the war in Iraq and foreign policy to domestic issues, such as health care, with the second presidential debate on Friday in St. Louis expected to focus on such issues, the New York Times reports (Nagourney, New York Times, 10/3). According to the Washington Post, Democrats have said that the order of the debates "may work to Kerry's advantage," with the later ones focused on health care and other domestic issues, where he has an "advantage" over Bush, (Balz, Washington Post, 10/3).
Kerry, "hoping to capitalize on the heightened attention to the campaign among voters after the first presidential debate," on Saturday highlighted his health care plan in a speech at a Florida high school, the Baltimore Sun reports. Kerry said, "For the last four years, George Bush has turned his back on you and your families with almost every choice that he's made," adding that a second Bush term "is just four more years that I don't think people can really afford" (Hirschfeld Davis/Greene, Baltimore Sun, 10/3).
Kerry senior adviser Joe Lockhart said, "We think the final piece of this puzzle -- the reason there are some good Democrats and moderates and independents who still are sitting on the fence -- is we haven't addressed in a more forceful way enough the domestic agenda. That's what we're going to do now" (Kuhnhenn, Knight Ridder/Wichita Eagle, 10/1). Lockhart added, "We know that there are a lot of people out there who are more worried about their jobs and paying their health care bills than worrying about what's going on the other side of the world. This is not brain surgery" (New York Times, 10/3).
Kerry this week also began an "extensive ad campaign in key states focusing on his record on health care" and other domestic issues, the Hartford Courant reports (Lightman, Hartford Courant, 10/2). The 15-state ad campaign, which cost about $7.7 million, represents a "very aggressive move to the domestic agenda," Kerry campaign strategist Tad Devine said (Washington Post, 10/3).
According to the Times, the ad campaign will "attack Bush as a tool of 'the powerful and well-connected'" (New York Times, 10/3).
Bush on Saturday in Ohio criticized Kerry on his plans to address health care and other domestic issues as "typical Democratic big-government plans" that Kerry would fund through large tax increases and promoted his plan for health savings accounts, the Sun reports. Bush said that Kerry "has decided to put his faith in the wisdom of the government," adding, "I will always put my faith in the wisdom of the American people" (Baltimore Sun, 10/3).
Arizona Daily Star: The Arizona Daily Star on Sunday examined how Kerry and Bush "sharply differ" on the issue of health care, which has "become a key domestic policy issue in this presidential election," and how some analysts question whether they would have the funds available to finance their plans. According to Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute, "No matter who wins, I think the fiscal situation is sufficiently tight that this is an issue that will be largely deferred. But let's hope the conversation is not deferred along with it" (Erikson, Arizona Daily Star, 10/3).
Kansas City Star: The Kansas City Star on Sunday examined how the "universal pain of spiraling" health care costs has "reached a crescendo over the past four years" and has become "a major presidential campaign issue." According to the Kansas City Star, the differences between the health care plans of Kerry and Bush likely are less important as "whether voters are persuaded that their competing plans go far enough or have the necessary commitment to ensure that they and their families can be assured of top-quality health care" (Wenske, Kansas City Star, 10/3).
- Philadelphia Inquirer: The Inquirer on Monday examined how the health care plans of Kerry and Bush would use the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program as a "model for health insurance reform." FEHBP -- which covers about 8.5 million federal employees, retirees and their families -- allows members in most cases to select coverage from 12 private health plans. Kerry has proposed to expand FEHBP to small businesses and the uninsured, and Bush has said that the program could serve as a model for Medicare reform (Uhlman, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/4).
The Times editorial page on Sunday examined the health care plans of Kerry and Bush as part of a series titled, "Campaign 2004: The Big Issues." According to the Times, "Mr. Kerry's approach would do more and cost more than Mr. Bush's" but would not "put bureaucrats in charge of your health care, as President Bush has shamelessly contended." The Times examines how the plans would address a number of issues. Summaries appear below.
- The uninsured: The Kerry health care plan, which would expand coverage to an estimated 27 million uninsured U.S. residents, "would do a far better job" on the issue of the uninsured than the Bush health care plan, which would expand coverage to "at most seven million of the uninsured," the Times reports. According to the Times, Bush has proposed tax credits of as much as $3,000 to help low-income families cover the cost of health insurance, but they "will not go far toward paying for policies that can cost $9,000 to $10,000 a year."
- Affordability: Kerry has proposed to reimburse employers for some catastrophic health care costs, which would provide an "innovative solution" to "soaring premiums" and "mean companies and group health plans would no longer have to shoulder the most costly cases that account for a huge chunk of all health expenditures," the Times reports. Bush has focused on health savings accounts, which would represent an "unjustified tax break for those who least need it" and most likely attract "only the healthiest people with few medical needs, leaving traditional health plans to deal with the sickest and costliest patients, inevitably forcing an increase in their premiums," the Times reports.
- Cost control: According to the Times, neither the Kerry nor Bush health care plan "looks like it would make a major dent in the ever-escalating cost of medical care."
- New drug benefit: Bush to date has not received the "campaign mileage" from the new Medicare prescription drug benefit because Democrats have "focused so much attention on its shortcomings," the Times reports. In addition, although the Times supports proposals by Kerry to legalize the importation of prescription drugs from abroad and allow the federal government to negotiate medication prices with pharmaceutical companies -- plans that Bush has opposed -- "if the Republicans retain control of Congress, a President Kerry might be powerless to crack down on the drug companies" (New York Times, 10/3).
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