Health Care News From the Campaign Trail for the Week of Feb. 22
Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) on Thursday discussed their health care proposals and other issues during a debate at the University of Texas-Austin, the Washington Post reports (Kornblut/Balz, Washington Post, 2/22).
According to Clinton, her proposal, which would require all U.S. residents to obtain health insurance, would ensure that all residents have coverage. She added that the Obama proposal, which would require health insurance only for children, would leave 15 million residents without coverage.
Clinton said that "when I proposed a universal health care plan ... we took a big risk because we know it's politically controversial to say we're going to cover everyone," adding that Obama "chose not to do that" (Luo, New York Times, 2/22).
Clinton said that "if we don't go and require everyone to have health insurance, the health insurance industry will still game the system." In addition, she said, "Every one of us with insurance will pay the hidden tax of approximately $900 a year to make up for the lack of insurance" (Washington Post graphic, 2/22).
Under the Obama proposal, "you will be nibbled to death, and we will be back here with more and more people uninsured and rising costs," Clinton said.
In response, Obama said, "Understand that both of us seek to get universal health care," but "I have a substantive difference with Senator Clinton on how to get there" (Washington Post, 2/22). He said that the "reason that people don't have [health insurance] is not because they don't want it but because they can't afford it" (New York Times, 2/22).
Obama also said that Massachusetts, which recently implemented a law that requires all residents to obtain health insurance, has experienced problems with enforcement of the mandate (Washington Post, 2/22).
"In order for you to force people to get health insurance, you've got to have a very harsh penalty," he said, adding, "In some cases, there are people who are paying fines" because they did not obtain coverage and "still can't afford it, so now they're worse off than they were" (Washington Post graphic, 2/22).
The March 4 Democratic primary in Texas will "test which candidate's health care policy appeals to voters," the Dallas Morning News reports. Voters will have to decide between the Clinton proposal, which would require all U.S. residents to obtain health insurance, and the Obama plan, which would mandate coverage only for children.
According to Anne Dunkelberg, associate director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, most Texas residents seek some form of health care security. She said, "Increasingly, people feel very insecure about being able to keep their insurance and continue to afford it."
In response to a Morning News Web site request for uninsured middle-income readers to share their health care stories, the "reaction was mixed to health insurance mandates" (Roberson, Dallas Morning News, 2/20).
Today NPR's "The Bryant Park Project" reported on the debate. The segment includes comments from Obama, Clinton and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos ("The Bryant Park Project," NPR, 2/22).
NPR's "Morning Edition" also reported on the debate today. The segment includes comments from Obama and Clinton (Liasson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/22).
NPR's "All Things Considered" last week included a commentary by Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist for RTI International and a former assistant surgeon general, about the presidential candidates' health care proposals. According to Kamerow, candidates' proposals "ignore" the issue of primary care (Kamerow, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/15).
In addition, NPR's "Day to Day" last week included a discussion with NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner about the candidates' health care proposals (Brand, "Day to Day," NPR, 2/15).
- On Monday Clinton released a pamphlet that details her health care proposal and other plans in her economic package. According to the 13-page pamphlet, Clinton would "make it a priority to scale back special benefits and subsidies" to health care companies that the pamphlet states have "been given a free pass to profit, often at the expense of the American worker." The pamphlet also states that Clinton would seek to "take back at least $55 billion per year from drug" and other companies (Fouhy, AP/Austin American-Statesman, 2/18).
- on Monday Clinton also aired television advertisements in several Wisconsin districts that criticize the Obama proposal and that claim he has refused to debate her on health care and other issues (Mosk/Slevin, Washington Post, 2/19).
- Over the weekend, Clinton sent a mailer to Wisconsin voters that criticized Obama on his health care proposal. The mailer pictures seven individuals under the headline, "Barack Obama, which of these people don't deserve health care?" The mailer also states that the Obama proposal says, "No, we can't have universal coverage" (Bellantoni, Washington Times, 2/18).
- McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, on Sunday said that he would debate either Clinton or Obama on health care issues and that their proposals would expand the role of government in health care. During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," McCain said, "They want the government to run the health care system in America. I want the families to make the choice." He added, "If we bring health care costs under control and give families choices and have medical malpractice reform ... we can preserve the highest-quality health care in the world in America" (Curl, Washington Times, 2/18).
- At a La Cross, Wis., town hall meeting on Friday, McCain said that the Clinton proposal would "ratchet up the costs" of health insurance and that he would reduce health care costs through increased use of health savings accounts and increased focus on fitness and wellness (Fredrix, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2/15).
- On Friday Obama said that Clinton failed to pass health care reform legislation in the 1990s because of her focus on partisan politics. At a campaign event in Milwaukee, Obama said, "Hollering at Republicans and engaging in petty partisan politics didn't help health care get done." He added, "We don't need more fighting. ... We need some getting together, solving some problems" (Tayler, Long Island Newsday, 2/16).