Health Care Election News for the Week of Jan. 25, 2008
During a debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Monday, the three major Democratic presidential candidates discussed health care and other issues, the Columbia State reports.
During the debate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) criticized Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) because his health care proposal would not require all U.S. residents to obtain health insurance.
Clinton said, "If you don't start out trying to get universal health care, you'll never get there," adding, "The whole idea of universal health care is such a core Democratic principle that I am willing to go to the mat for it."
In response, Obama said that his proposal seeks to ensure residents can afford health insurance, adding that enforcing such a mandate "may mean taking money out of people's paychecks" (O'Connor, Columbia State, 1/22).
Clinton also said that Obama "basically did the bidding of health insurance companies" during his tenure in the Illinois Legislature.
Edwards said that Clinton and Obama should focus on important issues, such as health care, rather than attacks on each other. He said, "I also want to know on behalf of voters in South Carolina, how many children are going to get health care because of this? We have got to understand that this is not about us personally" (Seattle Times, 1/22).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Tuesday reported on the debate and included comments from the candidates on health care. The segment includes comments from Clinton, Edwards and Obama (Cornish, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/22). Audio of the segment is available online.
Although the Democratic candidates have been criticizing each other's health care proposals for months, they each have proposed that all U.S. residents "have the choice of buying a government-run plan modeled on Medicare," the Los Angeles Times reports.
The candidates acknowledge that their proposals are "broad brush strokes for now," but the "consensus among the three means that, if a Democrat is elected, a new government insurance plan for the middle class could well be part of the strategy for tackling one of the nation's most worrisome problems," according to the Times.
Such a system, "which would set up a competition between a new government plan and private insurance programs," is "one of the most far-reaching and controversial proposals for making health insurance more affordable and more widely available," the Times reports.
"It's generally assumed that the government plan would cost less than many of the private options," but "it's not clear whether that would necessarily give it an advantage," the Times reports. Some have raised concerns that a government plan could become a "dumping ground for the most seriously ill -- and expensive -- patients," as private plans "cherry pick those least likely to file large claims," according to the Times. Others have suggested that the government plan could underbid, and later replace, private plans.
However, some experts believe "giving people the option of joining a government plan might make for a sensible experiment," the Times reports (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 1/21).
A newly published article in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that the contrasting health care platforms of the leading Democratic and Republican presidential candidates reflect underlying differences in the views of their primary voters, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.
The article is based in part on a new telephone survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, including responses from 674 likely Democratic voters and 508 likely Republican voters in 35 states -- and Washington, D.C. -- with January or February presidential primaries or caucuses (Reuters, 1/24). The survey, conducted in November 2007, had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points for Democratic voters and plus or minus five percentage points for Republican voters (Freking, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/24).
According to the survey, 65% of Democratic voters say they would like presidential candidates to propose plans that would expand health insurance to all residents, regardless of whether such plans would increase government spending.
Among Republican voters, 23% would like to hear about proposals that would expand health insurance to all residents, compared with 42% who prefer more limited proposals and 27% who would like to see no changes to the current system, the survey found.
In addition, Democratic voters are divided between a focus on expanding insurance coverage and controlling costs, while cost issues dominate among Republican voters, the Kaiser/Harvard survey found (Emery, Reuters, 1/24).
According to the article -- based on the new survey and an analysis of 10 other recent surveys -- the health care proposals from the presidential candidates reflect the views of Democratic and Republican voters. The analysis concluded that the "prospects for actual health care reform are tempered by two factors: the wide difference in the two parties' view of what health care reform should look like and the current level of satisfaction that majorities of both parties have with their own health care situations" (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/24).
- On Tuesday, Clinton released an online video that criticizes Obama for shifting his support of a single-payer health care system, The Hill reports. The video compares statements about health care that Obama made at an AFL-CIO conference in 2003 to those he made at a debate in South Carolina on Monday. At the conference, Obama said, "I happen to be a proponent of single-payer universal health care coverage." He added, "But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate and we have to take back the House." During the debate, Obama said, "I never said that we should try to go ahead and get single-payer." He added, "What I said was: If I were starting from scratch, if we didn't have a system where employers typically provided health care, I would probably go with a single-payer system." In response to the video from Clinton, Obama said that his positions on health care have not changed, only her "presentation of my positions, which has happened frequently in this campaign" (Barr, The Hill, 1/22).
- Judicial Watch has obtained records from the Clinton Presidential Library that "reveal the internal workings and attitudes of people associated with Hillary Clinton's National Task Force on Health Care Reform" in the 1990s, which "penetrate Clinton's carefully crafted personae, expose her true character and suggest what she and her Democratic allies would impose on the nation, if given the power," syndicated columnist Cal Thomas writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. According to Thomas, efforts by the task force to "impose an unworkable plan on an unsuspecting public was bad enough, but the pain HillaryCare supporters were prepared to inflict on opponents demonstrates insensitivity in the extreme ... tells voters all they need to know about her and about her team's tactics and objectives should she become president." He adds, "Had opponents not prevailed, we might be standing in line for health care like they are in Canada and Britain" (Thomas, Washington Times, 1/23).
- In an interview in Patrick, S.C., on Thursday, Edwards said that his health care proposal could develop into a single-payer health care system and that he would not oppose such a development, the New York Times reports. Edwards' plan would allow U.S. residents to pay to participate in public health plans modeled on Medicare. He said that, under his proposal, residents would decide "which works best" -- private or public health plans. He added, "It could continue to be divided," but "it could go in one direction or the other, and one of the directions is obviously government or single-payer. And I'm not opposed to that." According to the Times, in the event that public health plans can offer health insurance at lower prices than private plans, the federal government "theoretically" could become the "de facto insurer for the nation." Edwards said, "There is nothing back-door about it," adding, "It's right through the front door. We're going to let America decide what health care system works for them" (Sack, New York Times, 1/25).
- During a recent presidential debate in New Hampshire, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that he supports prescription drug reimportation from Canada, a proposal that "amounts to importing Canada's price controls, a large step toward a system in which some medicines would be inexpensive but many others -- new pain-relieving, life-extending pharmaceuticals -- would be unavailable," columnist George Will writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. Will writes, "Setting drug prices by government fiat rather than market forces results in huge reductions of funding for research and development of new drugs." According to Will, "McCain's evident aim is to reduce pharmaceutical companies' profits," but "if all those profits were subtracted from the nation's health care bill, the pharmaceutical component of that bill would be reduced only from 10% to 8% -- and innovation would stop, taking a terrible toll in unnecessary suffering and premature death" (Will, Washington Post, 1/20).
This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.