FACT CHECK: Journalists Analyze Bush/Gore Debate Claims
Yesterday evening's third presidential debate between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) "opened on a note of contention -- over health care -- and that tone carried through the 90 minutes," the Washington Post reports (Balz/Allen, Washington Post, 10/18). The candidates differed sharply on a number of health care issues and made several claims regarding their records in these areas. Several newspapers have analyzed the truthfulness of what Bush and Gore said last night. The following is summary of this analysis, broken down by issue:
- Patients' bill of rights: Bush said last night that he "brought Republicans and Democrats together" to enact a patients' bill of rights in Texas. But according to the New York Times, Bush's record on this issue is "mixed." Bush vetoed legislation in 1995 that called for annual report cards for HMOs and would have required them to provide necessary emergency room care, although he "did instruct the state's insurance commissioner to draft rules" covering some parts of the bill. Two years later, the Texas Legislature passed another bill allowing patients to sue HMOs. Bush threatened a veto but "allowed the provision to become law without his signature" after the Legislature passed the bill by a "wide margin" (Yardley, New York Times, 10/18). According to USA Today, "Many Texas observers believe Bush did not veto the bill a second time because of the chance the Legislature would override his veto" (Welch/Drinkard, USA Today, 10/18).
- The Clinton/Gore record: Bush said last night in response to Gore's praise for his administration's achievements, "You talk about eight years. In eight years they haven't gotten anything done on Medicare, on Social Security, a patients' bill of rights" (Debate transcript, New York Times, 10/18). Bush also said, "In order to get something done on behalf of the people, you have to put partisanship aside." According to Washingtonpost.com , Bush "understates the role of the Republican-led Congress in federal gridlock, especially on health care legislation." While the Clinton/Gore administration may not have "put partisanship aside," the same "can certainly be said of the Republican congressional leaders who support Bush."
- The uninsured: The Post also states that Gore "glosse[d] over his administration's record regarding health care coverage," when he said that 44 million Americans do not have health insurance. Despite a growing economy, "government efforts to expand coverage" and campaign pledges made in 1992 to expand coverage, the number of uninsured has "grown significantly during the Clinton/Gore administration" (Babington, Washingtonpost.com, 10/17). In addition, Gore's criticism of the state of health care in Texas "lacked context." While Gore "[u]ntil a few weeks ago ... would have been correct" in stating that Texas ranks last among states in providing overall coverage, a recent report showed that Texas now ranks 49th. Moreover, Texas ranked poorly under former Gov. Ann Richards (D), Bush's Democratic predecessor, and all of the southwestern border states rank low in providing coverage, presumably because of their large immigrant populations (Kessler, Washington Post, 10/18).
- Prescription drugs: Gore stated last night that pharmaceutical companies "are now spending more money on advertising and promotion ... than they are on research and development" (Debate transcript, New York Times, 10/18). However, a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that the pharmaceutical industry spent $21 billion on research in 1998 compared to $8.3 billion on advertising. Meanwhile, Bush said he would add prescription drugs "as an integral part of Medicare once and for all." His proposal for Medicare, however, "relies on private insurers to offer plans with drug benefits"