HEALTH DEBATE 2000: Where’s George W.? Asks Roll Call
As Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley duke it out over health care, political commentator Morton Kondracke poses the question, "Where is GOP front-runner George W. Bush?" Bush has kept a low profile on the issue while advisers scramble to develop plans to address the uninsured, patents' rights, Medicare and medical research. But Roll Call executive editor and columnist Kondracke writes in this week's issue, "we aren't likely to see [these issues] until next year," as Bush's schedule is too tied up with foreign policy and economic tax considerations to "permit an early foray into health policy." The delayed entrance into the debate could spell doom for the candidate, who is already considered vulnerable to attacks on what many view as a weak record on health care as governor, Kondracke notes. But Kondracke also acknowledges that joining the controversy now might be risky, as Bush's "plans for the uninsured and Medicare certainly will be compared unfavorably to Gore's and Bradley's." When he does unveil his plan, Bush will likely highlight his proposal to double the budget for medical research. Additionally, according to aides, the Texas governor will probably center the bulk of his plan around providing coverage to the 17 million employed but uninsured people. One adviser quoted Bush as saying that "a person who gets up in the morning and goes to work ought to have the same access to health insurance whether they work at the corner gas station or Dow Chemical. Why should you have a tax code that helps one and hurts the other?" Bush is mulling over a plan to provide block grants to states that encourage insurers to offer discount policies to the uninsured. He also favors a premium support approach that would help seniors purchase private plans and would provide low-income beneficiaries with a drug benefit. He plans to introduce all of this, aides say, "in morsels big enough for the American public to chew." Kondracke observes, "Bush's approach to health care seems in keeping with his overall theme of 'compassionate conservatism.' It deals with all the issues Democrats are raising ... but less expensively and through private-market mechanisms." That strategy "probably will work in the general election campaign," Kondracke concludes, warning, however, that Bush should not "wait too long before starting to sell it" (11/11 issue).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.