Health Care News From the Campaign Trail for the Week of Feb. 29
During a debate at Cleveland State University in Ohio on Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) discussed their health care proposals, as well as other issues, the New York Times reports (Healy/Zeleny, New York Times, 2/27). According to the Detroit News, the candidates had a 15-minute discussion on health care that "occasionally became heated but broke no new ground" (Trowbridge , Detroit News, 2/27).
Clinton said that Obama erroneously has "said I would force people to have health care whether they can afford it or not" (Espo, AP/Miami Herald, 2/26).
In response to a statement by Obama that her proposal would require all U.S. residents to obtain health insurance, Clinton said, "Obama has a mandate. He would enforce the mandate by requiring parents to buy coverage for children" (Chozick/Timiraos, Wall Street Journal, 2/27).
In addition, she said that the Obama proposal would leave 15 million residents without health insurance.
Clinton also criticized Obama for a mailer distributed by his campaign that discussed her proposal (New York Times, 2/27). The mailer, which the Obama campaign has distributed for more than three weeks, states, "Hillary's health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it ... and you pay a penalty if you don't" (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 2/4).
She said, "What I find regrettable is that ... it is almost as though the health insurance companies and the Republicans wrote it" (New York Times, 2/27). Clinton added that Obama has spread "false, misleading and discredited" information about her proposal (Thomma, McClatchy/Kansas City Star, 2/26).
Obama said that Clinton has misrepresented his position on health care. "Senator Clinton repeatedly claims that I don't stand for universal health care. And, you know, for Senator Clinton to say that I think is simply not accurate."
He also said that Clinton failed in her efforts on health care reform in the 1990s in part because she "had the view that what's required is simply to fight" (Helman, Boston Globe, 2/27). She "ended up fighting not only just the insurance companies and the drug companies but also members of her own party," Obama said (Decker/Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 2/27).
- The health proposals of Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) are "remarkably similar," but whether to require all U.S. residents to obtain health insurance "remains a great dividing point," the Wall Street Journal reports (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 2/23). According to the Washington Post, both the Clinton and Obama proposals reflect a "growing political consensus among Democrats that universal health care can be achieved by subsidizing coverage for low-income people, establishing new purchasing pools to help others buy affordable insurance, and requiring most businesses to offer health plans to their workers or pay a fee." However, the Post reports, "their most striking difference is on whether to require everyone to get a policy" (Lee, Washington Post, 2/24).
- Both Clinton and Obama "champion fiscal responsibility on the campaign trail," but they are "promising massive new spending" on health care and other proposals "without providing details on how they'd pay" for them, McClatchy/Miami Herald reports. According to McClatchy/Herald, such campaign promises "raise concern among budget experts, who aren't hearing much about sources for the money." Both candidates have said that they would finance their health care proposals through an end to the war in Iraq, the repeal of tax cuts for higher-income households, and expanded use of electronic health records and other advances in health care information technology (Hall/Talev, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 2/24).
- NPR's "Morning Edition" on Monday reported on the Clinton and Obama health care proposals. The segment includes comments from Clinton; Obama; David Culter, a Harvard University economist and Obama adviser; and Linda Blumberg of the Urban Institute (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/25).
- NPR's "All Things Considered" last week included a discussion with NPR policy correspondent Julie Rovner about the Clinton and Obama health care proposals (Block, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/22).
- On Friday, NPR's "Morning Edition" reported on a new poll from NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health examines public support for proposals that would require individuals to obtain health insurance. The poll showed that most U.S. residents feel the issue of the uninsured is an important concern, with 59% saying they would support a broad proposal that would require all individuals to purchase coverage, with government assistance for low-income people and fines for people who did not obtain coverage. The segment included comments from Mollyann Brodie, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of the Foundation's Public Opinion and Media Research Project; Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health, a co-director of the project; and poll respondents (Knox, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/29).
- NBC's "Nightly News" on Tuesday reported on health care proposals from Clinton, Obama and Republican candidates Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The segment includes comments from the candidates and Len Nichols, director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation (Snyderman, "Nightly News," NBC, 2/26).
- NPR's "News & Notes" last week included a discussion with Paul Ginsberg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, about health care in the presidential election (Chideya, "News & Notes," NPR, 2/22).
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has met with Clinton and Obama, as well as many other lawmakers, in an effort to "build enough support in Congress this year so the next president has boilerplate legislation" for health care reform, the Oregonian reports.
Wyden has promoted the Healthy Americans Act, a bill (S 334) he introduced in 2006 that would detach health insurance from employment and guarantee coverage for all residents.
Wyden said that he will not endorse either Democratic presidential candidate "because, if I do, everybody is going to say, 'Well, that means Ron's going to steer the Healthy Americans Act toward their approach.'" According to the Oregonian, the bill has received "more support in Congress than any universal health care plan in U.S. history," although several lawmakers, some of whom are co-sponsors of the legislation, "have significant problems with the proposal" (Kosseff, Oregonian, 2/25).
- During a campaign event in Ohio on Thursday, Clinton "misstated" Obama's health care position, the Boston Globe reports. Under her health care proposal, all U.S. residents would have to obtain health insurance. The Obama health care proposal would require health insurance only for children. At a Hanging Rock, Ohio, community center, Clinton said, "I want ... each and every member of the family to have health insurance. My opponent only wants your children to have health insurance," adding, "I don't think that's smart." In response to questions about her statements at the community center, Clinton said, "The bottom line is he was not willing to go the distance with a universal health care plan. ... I was drawing that distinction, and I think it's a fair one" (Helman, Boston Globe, 2/29).
- In Cincinnati on Saturday, Clinton criticized the Obama campaign for distributing mailers she said include misleading information about her health care proposal. The mailers, which the Obama campaign has distributed for three weeks, state that the Clinton proposal would "force" families to purchase health insurance, regardless of whether they can afford coverage. In addition, they state, "Punishing families who can't afford health care to begin with just doesn't make sense" (Bellantoni/DeBose, Washington Times, 2/24). Clinton said, "I have to express my deep disappointment that he is continuing to send false and discredited mailings" (Bacon/MacGillis, Washington Post, 2/24). Obama spokesperson Bill Burton defended the accuracy of the mailers. He added that Clinton "has said (she) would consider 'going after the wages' of Americans who don't purchase health insurance, whether they can afford it or not" (New York Daily News, 2/24).
- During a rally at the Rhode Island College Recruiting Center on Sunday, Clinton said, "I don't understand how anyone running to become the Democratic nominee could not have a plan for universal health care" (DeBose/Bellantoni, Washington Times, 2/25).
- During a Dayton, Ohio, rally on Saturday, Clinton said that although President Bush has promised to help residents cover the cost of health insurance, "we have lived through some of the worst change that any of us have ever seen in the last seven years" (Washington Times, 2/24).
- CNN has posted video of a speech by Huckabee on preventive health care. Huckabee made the speech during a campaign event in San Antonio last week (CNN.com, 2/23).
- McCain has considered a proposal that would place "more money on the table" for sick U.S. residents who seek health insurance, according to McCain adviser and former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the Wall Street Journal "Health Blog" reports. As part of his health care proposal, McCain has said that he would provide tax credits of $2,500 to lower-income individuals and $5,000 to lower-income families to help them purchase private health insurance. In a conference call hosted by Morgan Stanley, Holtz-Eakin raised the possibility of "risk adjustment" in the tax credits to help sick residents who often cannot obtain health insurance or must pay high premiums. He said that the McCain campaign recognizes that the tax credits would have less benefit for sick residents than healthier ones. According to Holtz-Eakin, McCain hopes to finalize the proposal in the next few months (Rubenstein, "Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 2/25).
- CNN has posted video of a speech by McCain on health care costs. McCain made the speech during a recent campaign event in Indianapolis (CNN.com, 2/23).
On Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader announced that he will seek the presidency as a third party candidate, the New York Times reports. Nader said that he decided to seek the presidency in part because the major candidates have taken a single-payer health insurance system and other issues "off the table."
He said that he has not decided which party with which his campaign will affiliate (Wheaton, New York Times, 2/25).