Newspapers Examine Bush, Kerry Health Care Proposals
The health care policies proposed by President Bush and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) vary widely in cost and extent, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. Bush's plan would cost about $90.5 billion over 10 years and would extend health coverage to 2.1 million people. Kerry's proposal would cost $653 billion over the same period and expand coverage to about 26.7 million people (O'Rourke, Raleigh News & Observer, 6/28).
Bush's "more limited proposal" focuses on malpractice reform, consumer choice and tax credits, the Miami Herald reports. According to the Herald, Bush campaign's platform is that "tax credits and health savings accounts will make consumers more careful about spending their dollars, and thereby lower health care costs." James Capretta, health policy adviser to Bush's reelection campaign and the former head of health and education policy at the Office of Management and Budget, said that Bush's proposal was consistent with Bush's plan to expand tax cuts and reduce the federal budget deficit, adding that such initiatives would require "reform in entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as controls on domestic spending" (Dorschner, Miami Herald, 6/27).
Kerry's plan also would offer tax credits to people who purchase private health insurance and would transfer to the federal government from private businesses a share of the costs of treating catastrophic illnesses. Kerry's plan would expand existing government health programs, including Medicaid, and permit individuals and small businesses to buy into the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (Connolly/Weisman, Washington Post, 6/28). Kerry has said that he would finance his health care proposal by repealing tax cuts for families whose annual incomes exceed $200,000. Kerry said he would support the reimportation of lower-cost, U.S.-made prescription drugs from Canada and would allow Medicare to negotiate bulk-purchasing contracts with pharmaceutical companies.
Megan Hauck, a Bush policy adviser, said Kerry's plan "shifts costs to the federal government," adding that Kerry's estimates for his plan were too low. Hauck said she thought "it's a safe estimate that Kerry's proposal will cost over $1 trillion." She said, "The solution is not one big government pool that will allow people to buy into and run from Washington." Kerry's campaign says that his proposal is not one pool, but a "variety of ideas," the Herald reports. Kerry spokesperson Allison Dobson said, "Bush has done absolutely nothing, and health care costs are going through the roof," adding, "We're anxious to have a debate over this issue" (Miami Herald, 6/27). Sarah Bianchi, Kerry's domestic policy adviser, said, "If it's an honest debate between health insurance and tax cuts for the wealthy, we say, 'Bring it on.'" Bianchi said, "[I]f the voters go to the polls on Election Day thinking that's the basic choice, that's great for us." However, Terry Holt, a Bush campaign spokesperson, said, "It's not a binary choice," adding, "It's just false to assume you have to chose between giving people tax relief and providing health care reform."
Kenneth Thorpe, an Emory University health economist who worked in the Clinton administration, said, "On the domestic side, this is likely to be the biggest area of policy difference between the two campaigns." Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute and former head of the Congressional Budget Office, said, "Kerry is expansive and wants to preserve and strengthen the role government has played in the economic and social life of the republic, and Bush would like to scale back the role of government to the most basic services of protection of life and liberty and a safety net for those who really have no ability to care for themselves," adding, "These are pretty stark differences." Uwe Reinhardt, a professor at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, said that Kerry's "multi-pronged" proposal is "kind of a 70% solution," compared to Bush's "10% solution" (Washington Post, 6/28). C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Monday included interviews with Chris Jennings, a health care adviser for the Kerry campaign, and Hauck ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 6/28). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media after the broadcast.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.