John Kerry Says Deficit Would Not Affect Health Care Plan
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Sunday night in a Los Angeles Times interview said that as president, he would move ahead with his health care plan regardless of whether the federal budget deficit increased (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/3). The plan would cost about $653 billion over 10 years and expand health coverage to an estimated 26.7 million U.S. residents.
Kerry has said that he would finance the plan through the repeal of tax cuts for families whose annual incomes exceed $200,000 (California Healthline, 7/30). In the interview, Kerry said that although he hopes to reduce the budget deficit by half in his first term, "I have to see what the numbers are on Jan. 20 (inauguration day). I am not going to dig myself a hole based on some ideological ... promise like the president did when he did his (tax cut) plan" (Los Angeles Times, 8/3).
Meanwhile, senior advocates said that a plan Kerry has proposed under which Medicare could negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on prescription drugs "could cut prices by as much as half" and remove "one of the major flaws" of the new Medicare law, the Boston Herald reports. John Boesen, executive director of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, said that the plan could "save the taxpayers tons of money." According to Boesen, the provision in the Medicare law that prohibits such negotiations is "the signature feature that shows you what a scam this is."
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said that the plan indicates Kerry would "be a genuine health care president, not an insurance industry president or a pharmaceutical company president." However, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are "leery about the impact" of the plan, which they maintain could "drive away investors" and limit research on new medications, the Herald reports. Ian Spatz, vice president for public policy at Merck, said that if 60% or 80% of "your business is with one customer, they're not negotiating. It's about price setting." Genzyme spokesperson Dan Quinn added, "From our perspective, it could potentially have a stifling effect on innovation." In addition, opponents maintain that the plan likely would limit the prescription drugs covered under the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, which takes effect in 2006 (Heldt Powell, Boston Herald, 8/3).