Health Care a Key Priority for AARP Members in Iowa
About 99% of Democratic AARP members who likely will participate in the Iowa caucuses consider health care as somewhat important or very important in their decision on which presidential candidate to support, but almost 30% of those members lack adequate information about the positions of the candidates on the issue, according to a recent survey commissioned by the group, the Des Moines Register reports.
The telephone survey, conducted between Sept. 24 and Sept. 26 by Woelfel Research, included responses from more than 500 Democratic AARP members who had participated in any of the Iowa caucuses since 1988 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Jeffrey Love, national research director for AARP, said, "I've seen a lot of national polling on this," adding, "Health care is clearly the number two issue after the war, but the war is constant"(Forgrave, Des Moines Register, 10/9).
Service Employees International Union officials on Monday announced that the union will not endorse a presidential candidate and will allow state chapters to make individual endorsements, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. After state SEIU chapters endorse a presidential candidate, union activists from those states cannot campaign in states in which union chapters have endorsed a different candidate.
SEIU Secretary Treasurer Anna Burger said, "Any one of these candidates would help create a new American dream for workers and their families."
According to the AP/Times, the decision by SEIU not to endorse a presidential candidate is an "especially painful blow" to Edwards, the candidate most likely to receive the endorsement (Holland, AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/9).
Summaries of several recent developments in presidential campaigns related to health care appear below.
- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.): Clinton last week in Kansas City, Mo., met with more than 50 ministers, mostly from black churches, and discussed her proposal to expand health insurance to all U.S. residents, among other issues, the Kansas City Star reports. She said, "I learned a lot from what we tried to do in '93 and '94. I'm very proud we tried." Clinton added, "There's a great consensus building in the country to try and make some sensible changes" (Helling, Kansas City Star, 10/5). In related news, the AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Saturday examined the validity of a Clinton television advertisement launched last week that claims she "championed" legislation to establish SCHIP in the 1990s. According to the AP/Star-Telegram, although Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) is "widely viewed as the driving force behind the program, by all accounts" Clinton played a "crucial" role in the passage of the bill (Fouhy, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/6).
- Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.): Edwards on Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" dismissed claims that he has changed his position on health care since his 2004 presidential campaign, the Washington Times reports. In 2004, Edwards offered a proposal that would have expanded health insurance to about half of uninsured U.S. residents. His current proposal would expand health insurance to all U.S. residents. Edwards said, "I am exactly the same person I was in 2004," but changes have occurred "both in America and in the world." In addition, Edwards criticized the health care system as "dysfunctional." He said that "these problems cannot be solved with small incremental change" and require "big, bold ideas" (Bellantoni, Washington Times, 10/8). In related news, McClatchy/Miami Herald on Sunday examined how "ridding the nation of poverty," which Edwards has cited as the "cause of his life," only "became a dominant public theme" for him in the "last few years." During his six-year Senate term, Edwards "tended to concentrate on the middle class who needed a boost," such as "people with health insurance who didn't have access to specialty care," McClatchy/Herald reports (Zagaroli, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 10/7).
- Rep. Dennis Kucinich (R-Ohio): Kucinich on Sunday at an AFL-CIO convention in Oregon "made fun" of other presidential candidates for "refusing to stand up" to health insurers that are "driving health care into the ground," the Oregonian reports. Kucinich said, "Somebody's running for president of the U.S., and they're saying they can't take on the insurance companies?" He added, "If you can't take on the insurance companies, who else can't you take on?" (Har, Oregonian, 10/8).
- Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.): Obama on Friday during a speech at a northern Iowa community college said that as president he would improve health care and eliminate delays in disability claims for veterans, the AP/Star-Telegram reports. Obama, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, proposed to hire more staff to process disability claims and establish electronic health records for veterans. "As president, I won't stand for hundreds of thousands of veterans waiting for benefits," he said, adding, "When a veteran is denied health care, we're all dishonored. ... When 400,000 veterans are stuck on a waiting list for claims, we need a new sense of urgency in this country" (Lorentzen, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/6). In related news, Obama on Saturday in Ottawa, Ill., told United Auto Workers members that health care will not receive proper attention as long as the war in Iraq continues (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 10/7).
- Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.): Thompson last week in Iowa said he supports a reduction of the Medicare prescription drug benefit as part of a series of reforms to the program, the Wall Street Journal reports. Thompson said that he would not have voted to establish the Medicare prescription drug benefit. He said, "I know this probably isn't a real popular thing to say, but we couldn't afford this prescription drug bill. We basically put a $72 trillion commitment on top of an already-broken entitlement system." According to the Journal, the "politically risky" proposal may "endear him to fiscal conservatives," but "it isn't clear how that will play" among seniors (Schatz, Wall Street Journal, 10/8).