Health Care Proposals Introduced by Democratic Presidential Candidates Could ‘Boomerang’
Democratic presidential candidates have introduced "ambitious" health care proposals to help the uninsured, but some political analysts raise concerns that the "rush to stake a claim" to the issue could "boomerang and force the eventual nominee to defend an expensive and controversial promise against Republican attack" in the general election next year, USA Today reports. Although the issue of health insurance ranks "near the top" of voter concerns, the "problem has defied solution so far" in part because many voters with coverage "are reluctant to pay the considerable costs or accept the compromises that expanding coverage to everyone involves," according to USA Today. In addition, the proposals made by the Democratic presidential candidates "are complicated to explain and easy to demonize," USA Today reports (Page, USA Today, 6/2). No Democratic presidential candidate has introduced a health care proposal that "appeals to voters because it is easy to understand and is hard to attack because it is simple" or a proposal that "wins politically and works economically," the Dallas Morning News reports (Dodge, Dallas Morning News, 6/2). According to political analysts, the Democratic presidential candidates are "overlooking" voter concerns about the costs or compromises that the proposals would require. Supporters of proposals to reform the health care system "learned the hard way" about those concerns in 1994, when a national health care reform proposal introduced by former President Clinton failed, USA Today reports. Many political analysts maintain that a comprehensive health care proposal is important to establish "credibility" in the Democratic primary and cite health care as the "biggest political vulnerability" of President Bush (USA Today, 6/2). However, Republicans "appear unwilling to cede the issue to Democrats"; Bush has announced proposals to reform Medicare and Medicaid and to decrease the number of uninsured with tax credits, the Morning News reports (Dallas Morning News, 6/2).
Two recent opinion pieces addressed the issue of health care in the 2004 presidential campaign. Summaries of the opinion pieces appear below:
Providence Journal: The health care proposals introduced by Reps. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) are the "most interesting" of the proposals from Democratic presidential candidates because they do not use "baby-step approaches to solving the health care crisis," according to a Journal editorial. The Kucinich proposal "advocates transforming America's health care system" into a government-administered single-payer system, similar to the system in Canada, and "offers the advantage of freeing employers from the vast burden of supplying health coverage," the editorial states. The Gephardt proposal would require companies to offer health coverage to employees -- which "has the drawback of being employer-based" -- but the government subsidies that the proposal would provide to help cover the cost would "sharply reduce the health care obligations of companies already offering benefits," the editorial states. However, the editorial states that the health care proposals introduced by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) "suffer from a certain meekness" and rather than "simplify today's messy system, they build upon it." The editorial concludes, "We hope that the Democrats' revived interest" in health care issues "will spur the Bush administration and the Republican Congress to also address it, which citizens and businesses very much want them to do" (Providence Journal, 6/2).
- David Broder, Washington Post: The "clearest dynamic to emerge" in the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination "is the rise of health care as the defining issue," and the trend "is likely to prod President Bush into joining the Democratic dialogue on the best way to expand access to health care in this country," syndicated columnist Broder writes in a Post opinion piece. According to Broder, private sector leaders -- led by the National Coalition on Health Care -- have "made the case that the cost of inaction on major health reform is much higher than any of the budgetary costs associated with a major overhaul of the system." Private sector leaders maintain that comprehensive health reform "is not only possible but also necessary" to "head off this looming catastrophe," Broder concludes (Broder, Washington Post, 6/2).