Health Care News From the Campaign Trail for the Week of April 18
- Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) have proposed similar health care proposals, and some experts maintain that "this is not the issue that will help voters decide" between them, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The most significant difference in the proposals involves the question of whether to mandate that all residents obtain health insurance: Clinton would implement such a mandate, but Obama would require coverage only for children (Burling, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/15).
- Clinton and Obama have both proposed health care plans that would "build on the existing health care system" to make affordable coverage available to the uninsured, but they differ on whether an individual insurance mandate is necessary to expand coverage to all U.S. residents, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Analysts interviewed by the Post-Gazette "agreed the two Democratic plans are much different from health proposals advanced by Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee." According to the paper, McCain would not "guarantee coverage." He has proposed eliminating the tax preference employees receive for employer-sponsored coverage, replacing it with a tax credit for health insurance of $2,500 per individual or $5,000 per family (Fahy, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, 4/18).
During their campaigns, Clinton and Obama have said that funds spent on the war in Iraq are "crowding out urgent national needs," such as an expansion of health insurance to more U.S. residents, the New York Times reports.
At "the low end of estimates of the cost of the war -- $120 billion a year -- the money would cover the projected cost" of either the Clinton or Obama health care proposal or the "unpaid part of the Medicare drug benefit," the Times reports.
According to a Clinton economic adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Sen. Clinton has proposed covering the cost of her health care and other domestic proposals without the use of funds that the Department of Defense would need to redeploy troops in Iraq and pay for their health care costs. "Everything is paid for," the adviser said.
Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago professor and an Obama economic adviser, said that savings from a winding down of the war would materialize slowly. Goolsbee said sources such as elimination of Bush tax cuts and federal spending reductions "will more than pay for everything Senator Obama has proposed."
James Horney, director of federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said, "Before the war started and without any of the new ideas of the candidates, we're in a situation where we have to reduce spending and reduce the rate of growth of Medicare and Medicaid and, to a lesser extent, Social Security. So the costs of the war have to be seen in that context" (Broder, New York Times, 4/14).
- At a Washington, D.C., luncheon hosted by the American Society of Newspaper Editors on Tuesday, Clinton presented the proposed agenda for the first 100 days of her presidency that would include the enactment of health care bills vetoed by President Bush, the Miami Herald reports. Clinton said that she would seek to enact legislation to reauthorize and expand SCHIP and to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (Douglas/Talev, Miami Herald, 4/16).
- McCain's health care plan would "encourage people to buy their own insurance, rather than get it through their jobs" by "giving people tax credits, encouraging more people to set up tax-advantaged health savings accounts and letting them buy insurance policies across state lines," NPR's "Morning Edition" reports. The segment includes comments from McCain; Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Democratic presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.); and health care consultant Bob Laszewski (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 4/17).
- During a speech at Carnegie Mellon University on Tuesday, McCain announced an economic package that includes a proposal that would require higher-income Medicare beneficiaries to pay higher monthly premiums for the prescription drug benefit, the Wall Street Journal reports (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 4/16). Higher-income Medicare beneficiaries currently pay higher premiums for Part B, which covers physician visits and outpatient hospital care, but all beneficiaries pay the same premiums for the prescription drug benefit (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 4/15). Under the proposal, individual Medicare beneficiaries with annual incomes that exceed $82,000 and couples with annual incomes that exceed $164,000 would pay higher premiums. The proposal would affect about 5% of Medicare beneficiaries and save an estimated $2 billion a year, according to the McCain campaign (Cooper, New York Times, 4/16).
- In Washington, Pa., on Tuesday, Obama told a group of military veterans and military families that as president he would seek to improve mental health care and brain injury treatment for veterans (Miami Herald, 4/16).