Kerry Addresses Health Care in Speech to Democratic National Convention
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention that he considers "affordable and accessible" health care a "right for all Americans," the AP/Manchester Union Leader reports (Woodward, AP/Manchester Union Leader, 7/30). Kerry called the 2004 election "the most important election of our lifetime" and highlighted health care as one of a number of important issues that face the nation (Ryan, Detroit News, 7/30). According to the Baltimore Sun, Kerry used his speech in part to outline "stark differences" between himself and President Bush on health care and other issues (Hirschfeld Davis, Baltimore Sun, 7/30).
Kerry also cited health care issues in his criticism of Bush for his efforts to campaign on a platform of family values. "You don't value families by denying real prescription drug coverage to seniors so big drug companies can get another windfall profit. ... You don't value families ... if you deny veterans health care," Kerry said. He added that as president, he would "make sure that senior citizens never have to cut their pills in half because they can't afford life-saving medicine." In addition, Kerry said that "help is on the way" to address health care issues such as the increased number of uninsured U.S. residents and the high rate of asthma in urban areas. He said that four million U.S. residents have lost health coverage since 2000 as "premiums... copayments ... deductibles have all gone through the roof," adding, "The story of people struggling for health care is the story of so many Americans."
Kerry said that his health care plan would "save families $1,000 a year on premiums," and provide more U.S. residents with the same quality of health insurance that members of Congress receive (Kerry speech text, New York Times, 7/30). 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, 7/29).
According to Kerry, the plan would allow "patients and doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats," to make medical decisions. He added that his administration would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on prescription drugs and establish a system to allow the reimportation of medications from other nations, such as Canada. "And when I am president, we will stop being the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy and the connected and the elected," Kerry said. He also expressed support for an expansion of federally funded embryonic stem cell research, asking, "What if we find a breakthrough in Parkinson's, diabetes, Alzheimer's and AIDS? What if we have a president who believes in science so we can unleash the wonders of discovery like stem cell research and treat illness for millions of lives?" (Kerry speech text, New York Times, 6/30).
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Thursday reported on the speeches of Kerry and others at the convention on Thursday ("NewsHour with Jim Lehrer", PBS, 7/29). The complete Kerry speech is available online in RealPlayer. Expanded PBS coverage of the convention is available online.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.