GORE & BRADLEY: Mild-Mannered Bradley Ups His Rhetoric
Launching his most vocal criticism to date of Vice President Al Gore's health plan, Democratic rival Bill Bradley told members of the American Public Health Association in Chicago yesterday that Gore has "abandoned that fundamental Democratic principle of basic health care for all Americans, the principle he had talked about so much in the campaign of 1992 and during the first two years of the administration." The Bradley campaign distributed lists of statements Gore made from 1992 to 1994, including, "A non-universal gimmick is worse than no answer," universal coverage is "non-negotiable," and "incremental half-measures" would fail (Lawrence, USA Today, 11/9). Bradley continued to attack Gore, saying, "The lesson Al Gore learned from the health care defeat [in 1994] was that big, bold things can't get done in Washington, so let's look to the small symbolic things. But that was the wrong lesson. Indeed, big rhetoric followed by small actions contributes to the disillusionment people have with politics." Bradley also accused Gore of falling prey to political rhetoric instead of listening to the people. Bradley said, "Maybe something happens when you listen to Washington voices instead of the people's. The Washington view of things says, 'Don't propose anything bold in a campaign, because your opponent will surely pick it apart.' The Beltway perspective says that if you try something once and fail, move on to another issue that polls better or is safer to talk about" (Dao, New York Times, 11/9). Defending the cost of his plans, Bradley argued, "It's not now, and never has been a question of money -- it's a question of will. When the Clinton-Gore administration took office and proposed universal health care, we had $290 billion-a-year deficits, Medicare was six years from bankruptcy, and we were spending the Social Security trust fund just to keep government running. ... [Now] economic circumstances are far better, and yet we have 5 million more people without health insurance" (Allen/Connolly, Washington Post, 11/9).
Bradley did fill out some of the provisions in his plan, specifically the $2 billion he would spend annually on a neighborhood-based public health system. He would spend $800 million of that to enhance the existing network of community health care clinics, $1 billion to prevent disease and $200 million to expand public health research at NIH (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 11/9).
Gore Talks Back
Gore spokesperson Chris Lehane fired back, saying Bradley "acted today like a typical politician. Unable to defend the merits of his own health care plan, he launched a negative attack on Al Gore" (New York Times, 11/9). Meanwhile, Gore plugged his plan to provide access to cheaper generic drugs, pledging to oppose "all unwarranted patent extensions" for brand-name drugs. He proposed legislation that would "require that all proposed patent extensions include an independent analysis of the cost implications for consumers and for taxpayers." The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up legislation today that would make it easier for Schering-Plough Corp. to get a patent extension for its allergy drug Claritin (Harwood/McGinley, Wall Street Journal, 11/9).
Ken Thorpe, the Emory University professor and former Clinton administration official who had estimated Bradley's plan would cost $1.2 trillion over ten years, revised his estimate yesterday. Now, he guesses that Bradley's plan would cover 15 million uninsured Americans at a cost of $1.05 trillion over the next decade, compared to Gore's plan, which would cover 12 million people at $312 billion. Thorpe still says that Bradley's plan is much more expensive and covers only a slightly more people because it subsidizes those who already have insurance and provides a much more generous prescription drug benefit for seniors under Medicare (Los Angeles Times, 11/9).