Financing Not Detailed in Candidates’ Health Plans
Presidential candidates have offered "scant" details about how they would finance their health care proposals, but such details will determine whether their plans "can win the political support needed to get through Congress," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/29). According to the Post-Gazette, all of the major candidates have announced health care proposals, but "few health care experts see any realistic possibility for a real reduction in the price tag of a system that is as central to the health of the economy as it is to that of individuals" (O'Toole, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/30).
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have said that they would eliminate tax cuts for households with annual incomes of more than $250,000 to finance their health care proposals -- a "surefire applause line" -- but "there's a problem with the bottom line," according to the AP/Raleigh News & Observer. The tax cuts will expire in 2011, and current federal budget estimates take their expiration into account.
Len Burman, a former deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury Department, said that the "government isn't counting on that money even now" and that claims of increased revenue from the elimination of the tax cuts "represents some sleight of hand."
In addition, although some proposals to reduce health care costs through increased efficiency "hold promise in the eyes of experts ... it's too early to account for them in the books," the News & Observer reports (Woodward, AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 10/1). The AP/Post-Gazette on Sunday published a list of presidential candidates and their health care proposals (AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/30).
Summaries of several recent developments in the presidential campaign related to health care appear below.
- Clinton: Clinton on Sunday at a campaign event in Oakland, Calif., discussed her proposal to expand health insurance to all U.S. residents, as well as other issues, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. The event marked one of several appearances in the San Francisco Bay Area that Clinton made over the weekend (Wohlsen, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 9/30). On Friday, Clinton adviser and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa., discussed the need for health care reform. Vilsack said that the health care "system has to be available to everybody," adding that "moral reasons" exist to increase efficiency in health care. In addition, Vilsack cited a need for increased focus on preventive care, improvement in health care quality and expanded use of electronic health records to help reduce costs. He also discussed disparities in health care for blacks and in chronic disease management among states (Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/29).
- Edwards: Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of John Edwards, on Saturday delivered the keynote address at the 2007 Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers-West Leadership Conference in San Jose, Calif., in which she expressed her support for legislation to reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the San Jose Mercury News reports. She also criticized President Bush for his threat to veto the bill and said health insurance "ought to be a right in a country like America" (Cohen, San Jose Mercury News, 9/30). On Saturday, Elizabeth Edwards at the George Mark Children's House -- a hospice and treatment facility for seriously and terminally ill children in San Leandro, Calif. -- told families and supporters that they must "weave a tapestry" of support for such children (Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/30).
- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): McCain on Sunday at a campaign event at the Pinkerton Academy in New Hampshire said that the U.S. can make health care affordable and accessible without a single-payer system, the Manchester Union Leader reports. In addition, McCain said that he does not support the legalization of medical marijuana based on the opinions of medical experts who maintain that other, more effective pain medications exist (Kalil, Manchester Union Leader, 10/1).
- Obama: Obama has "retreated on his pledge to undo part of President Bush's tax cuts" four months after announcing that he would eliminate tax cuts for households with annual incomes of more than $250,000, as well as increase the tax rate for earned dividends, to fund his proposal to expand health insurance to all U.S. residents, the Washington Times reports. According to the Times, the Obama campaign said that the changes would raise as much as $80 billion in additional revenue, but critics said that "Obama was playing math games when he proposed policies without identifying a funding source" (DeBose, Washington Times, 10/1).