Los Angeles Times Examines Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Health Care Plans
The Los Angeles Times on Saturday highlighted the "trends battering the nation's health care system" and the plans proposed by Democratic presidential candidates Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.) to expand health care coverage to the uninsured. Although both candidates would improve access to care by expanding existing public programs for low-income uninsured families, their proposals take different approaches, making health care "one of the most important distinctions between the two major contenders for the nomination," according to the Times. Under Edwards' plan, families whose children are uninsured would receive an income-based subsidy to help them purchase insurance through their employers or through the CHIP program. According to Kenneth Thorpe, professor of health policy and management at Emory University, the plan would cost about $590 billion over 10 years and provide coverage for nearly 22 million people, or about half of the nation's uninsured. Edwards' proposal would "ensure coverage for virtually all people through age 21," the Times reports. Under Kerry's plan, the federal government would assume all Medicaid costs to insulate the program from frequent state budget cuts, and states would be required to enroll automatically all eligible children. States and the federal government would then share the cost of expanding coverage to children in families earning up to three times the poverty level and to all parents earning up to twice the poverty level. The federal government would also assume 75% of medical costs above $50,000 annually for insured patients' care on the condition that insurers pass on those savings to employers and workers; the measure would reduce private insurance premiums by about 10% annually, according to Thorpe. Kerry's plan would cover about five million more adults than Edwards' plan, or about 27 million uninsured, and it would cost $895 billion over 10 years, Thorpe estimates (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 2/28).
In an hour-long debate in New York on Sunday, Edwards delivered his "harshest criticism yet" of Kerry, saying that his proposals on several issues, including health care, would "drive us deeper and deeper into deficit," the Associated Press reports. Kerry responded that the nation needs a president with experience and "proven ability to be able to stand up and take on tough fights." The debate came two days before voters in 10 states are scheduled to award 1,151 convention delegates -- more than half the 2,162 needed to secure the Democratic nomination. Kerry, with 688 delegates, has more than four times as many delegates as Edwards, according to the Associated Press (Pickler, Associated Press, 3/1).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.