HEALTH CARE: Do Voters Understand the Specifics?
Iowa voters today will choose between Democratic presidential hopefuls Al Gore and Bill Bradley. But whether or not the candidates' health proposals will affect Iowa's decision remains to be seen. Gore "softened his criticism" of Bradley on Friday, calling Bradley's plan "a respectable theory not to be dismissed out of hand." Still, he added, "Although I do dismiss it" (Sobieraj, AP/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/22). On the other hand, last Thursday Bradley tossed barbs at Gore and "claimed credit for a political turnaround since President Clinton failed to overhaul health care during his first term." Bradley said, "I'll tell you something. When I laid out my program this was not an issue in the political arena. It was thought to be impossible to do" (AP/Omaha World-Herald, 1/21). All the political haggling may have little effect on voters. Cox News/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the "occasional red-hot rhetoric and the eye-glazing number crunching ... has been perplexing, even to those who follow the issue closely." Steve Gorin, professor of health care at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire, said, "Many activists are confused" (Shepard, 1/23).
So where do the candidates stand on health care? The AP/Austin American-Statesman fills in the blanks:
- Former Sen. Bill Bradley: Would provide almost universal access to "affordable coverage through subsidization of premiums for low- to middle-income families and tax breaks." He would allow people to buy into the federal employee's health insurance program and dissolve Medicaid. He also would allow an optional benefit for non-routine prescription drugs for Medicare recipients. The plan's total cost is estimated to be $65 billion.
- Vice President Al Gore: Would expand CHIP coverage, create a prescription drug benefit for Medicare and allow more individuals above the poverty level to buy federally supported state coverage. He also would provide tax credits for the self-employed and long term care recipients. The plan's total cost is estimated to be $250 billion over 10 years.
- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): Would allow individuals to deduct premiums for long term care insurance plans that employers do not subsidize.
- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): Would permit full deductibility of health insurance premiums for the self-employed.
- Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R): Would strengthen tax incentives to small businesses providing health care to employees.