Edwards Challenges Kerry’s Health Care Proposal in Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate
In a Democratic presidential candidates' debate in Milwaukee on Sunday, Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) challenged Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) health care proposal to insure 97% of all U.S. residents within three years, calling it unrealistic in light of his other campaign promises, the Los Angeles Times reports. Edwards said that when candidates talk about health care, "[t]hey say, 'Oh, we're going to cover 97%. Everybody is going to be covered,'" but they also make such promises as providing tax cuts for the middle class and balancing the budget. "It's just not the truth. People need to know the truth about what we can afford and what we can't afford," he said. Edwards has proposed his own health care plan, which would cost less and cover "far fewer" uninsured people than any of the other remaining candidates' plans, according to the Times (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 2/16). According to USA Today, the Democratic candidates "broke no new ground in answering questions on health care, the war in Iraq and other issues" during the debate, which was the 15th to be broadcast in this election season (Kasindorf, USA Today, 2/16).
At a health care forum at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sunday, two Democratic presidential candidates -- former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) -- said that voters "must use the election to make desperately needed changes in health care" because the current system cannot be sustained, adding that the government must ensure access to essential health services, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Dean said, "Now is the time for affordable health insurance. Now is the time to get the job done." Dean has proposed repealing recent tax cuts for high-income earners to finance the cost of extending health insurance to nearly every uninsured U.S. resident. Kucinich, who has proposed creating a universal "Medicare for all" system financed by a 7.7% payroll tax on employers, said, "The time has come for universal not-for-profit health insurance." He added that even though the nation does not have universal health care, U.S. residents "are already paying for it" because of the shifting of expenses for care for the uninsured. All Democratic candidates were invited to the forum, but only Dean and Kucinich participated (Manning, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/15).
Kerry on Saturday won caucuses in Nevada and the District of Columbia, bringing his victories to 14 of 16 contests and helping him "consolidate his position as leader of the Democratic pack," the New York Times reports. In Nevada, Kerry won 63% of the vote, while Dean drew 17% and Edwards received 10% of votes. In the District of Columbia, Kerry won 47% of the vote, the Rev. Al Sharpton (D) received 20%, Dean won 17% and Edwards won 10%. Nevada was apportioned no delegates and Washington, D.C., has 16 (Dao/Stolberg, New York Times, 2/15).
Democrats are "coalescing around an election-year domestic agenda" that includes plans for higher taxes on wealthier U.S. residents to finance an expansion of health care and for modifying the new Medicare law (HR 1), the Washington Post reports. Democratic leaders are seeking to repeal tax cuts for families making more than $200,000 a year; they have rejected more "sweeping policy changes," such as repealing all of President Bush's tax cuts or moving quickly to provide health care to every U.S. resident, the Post reports. Some congressional Democrats support changing the Medicare law to allow the government to negotiate lower prices with drug companies and to permit the reimportation of lower-cost U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada and certain other countries to reduce the cost of drugs for U.S. consumers (VandeHei, Washington Post, 2/16). The Medicare law -- which Democrats, labor, consumer and senior groups have depicted as Republican legislation "more concerned about drug manufacturers and insurance companies than Medicare" beneficiaries -- is already "packing a powerful political punch and threatens to become the boomerang issue this election year," the Los Angeles Times reports. Republicans had hoped to capitalize on the reform during the election, according to the Times (Kemper, Los Angeles Times, 2/14). With their proposals, Democrat party leaders are "essentially splitting the ideological difference between the centrist policies of President Clinton in the 1990s and the liberal impulses of many party officials and activists today," the Post reports (VandeHei, Washington Post, 2/16).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.