Health Care News From the Campaign Trail for the Week of May 16
On Wednesday at a Grand Rapids, Mich., rally, former Democratic presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) announced his endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), in part because of his support for an expansion of health insurance to more residents, McClatchy/Denver Post reports.
At the rally, Edwards discussed his campaign theme of "one America," which included a proposal to expand health insurance to all residents and a number of other plans, and said Obama could implement those plans through his "bold leadership" abilities (Talev, McClatchy/Denver Post, 5/14).
Obama later praised Edwards as "one of the greatest leaders we have in the Democratic Party" and promised to work to make health care affordable for all residents and address the issue of poverty (McCormick/Pearson, Chicago Tribune, 5/15).
Joe Trippi, former senior adviser to the Edwards campaign, said that Edwards decided to support Obama despite concerns about the lack of an individual mandate in his health care proposal (Helman, Boston Globe, 5/15).
Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of John Edwards and a supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) health care proposal, did not attend the rally or endorse Obama (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 5/15).
- Fifty-five percent of U.S. adults trust Obama more than presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) to address the issue of health care, compared with 31% who trust McCain more than Obama to address the issue, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, the Post reports. For the poll, conducted between May 8 and 11, TNS interviewed by telephone a random sample of 1,122 adults nationwide. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points (Washington Post graphic, 5/13). The poll found that fewer than 10% of adults cited health care as their most important issue in the election, compared with 36% who cited the economy and 21% who cited the war in Iraq (Cohen/Balz, Washington Post, 5/13).
- About 11% of U.S. adults cite health care as their most important election issue, compared with 56% who cite the economy and 34% who cite the war in Iraq, according to a recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, the Times reports. The poll, conducted earlier this month, included telephone interviews of 2,208 adults, 1,986 of whom are registered voters. Researchers asked adults to cite as many as two issues as their most important election concerns (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 5/10). The poll results are posted on the Times' Web site (.pdf).
There is a "purely speculative" possibility that Obama would adopt Clinton's health care proposal and place her in charge of the effort to implement the plan in an effort to begin "winning her over" and "winning over her supporters," New York Times reporter Katharine Seelye writes in an online column. Obama also could add the "goal of universal coverage as a plank in the party's platform," Seelye writes.
Clinton has received support from many Democratic voters on the "basis of her insistence on universal coverage," and polls indicate that she "has been the choice of those for whom health care is a top priority," according to Seelye.
For Obama, "pushing for his Democratic rival's health care plan could go a long way toward bringing her supporters on board," and, for Clinton, "devoting herself to the passage of universal health coverage would be a big, serious undertaking" that could "serve just fine as a legacy" for her, Seelye writes.
According to Seelye, although Clinton spokesperson Howard Wolfson said that the campaigns have not entered discussions about such an agreement, "neither does he bat ... away" the possibility (Seelye, New York Times, 5/13).
Concerns among voters about access to health insurance and health care costs have become an "important part of how they choose presidential candidates, the Miami Herald reports. "Ask voters about their top domestic concern, and most name the economy, then quickly mention health care," according to the Herald.
Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, said, "The economy overall is the most important issue" for voters, and, "to a certain extent, health care is a component of that."
According to the Herald, although the candidates "find it easy to get voters' attention" on health care, "convincing a voter" that their proposals "can help ease his or her specific problem is a more difficult matter," and, "because the solutions are so complex -- involving affordability, better care, access to care and so on -- it's hard to judge just what motivates people to support one candidate over another" (Lightman, Miami Herald, 5/11).
McCain has said health care plans proposed by Clinton and Obama would "move closer to a nationalized health system," but that characterization is considered "a stretch," the AP/Miami Herald reports.
Both Clinton and Obama would use the federal government to establish a marketplace in which residents could purchase private or public health insurance, with subsidies for lower-income residents, and would prohibit health insurers from rejecting applicants because of pre-existing medical conditions.
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.
However, a "vast distance" exists between the Clinton and Obama health care proposals and a nationalized health care system, as neither candidate is "proposing government hospitals or government doctors," the AP/Herald reports. In addition, both candidates would "continue the split system that the U.S. has when it comes to health coverage," with coverage for some residents funded in large part by government and for others funded in part by employers, according to the AP/Herald (Freking, AP/Miami Herald, 5/11).