NORTHEAST: Congressional Candidates’ Health Positions
As Election Day draws near, California Healthline this week takes a look at the health care positions of candidates in several key or hotly contested U.S. House and Senate races. Today's report examines the Northeast region, detailing the candidates' positions on four issues: A Medicare prescription drug benefit; a patients' bill of rights; solutions for the uninsured; and abortion.
In the race for the New Jersey U.S. Senate seat, Jon Corzine (D), who backs "huge spending increases" for health care, has battled over the issue with Rep. Bob Franks (R), who backs a "more cautious approach," with Franks "narrowing his deficit" in the polls as Election Day nears. Still, Corzine holds a nine-point lead in a recent Newark Star-Ledger survey and a four-point advantage in a similar Gannett New Jersey poll (New York Times, 10/30). The candidates' positions on several key health issues appear below.
- Prescription drug benefit: Corzine favors a prescription drug benefit under the Medicare program (
www.VoteCorzine.org). While Franks also backs a drug benefit, he supports legislation that would provide coverage through government subsidies to private health plans (Issues2000.org);
- Patients' bill of rights: Corzine supports comprehensive patients' rights legislation that would extend access to specialists and emergency room care, prevent insurance companies from restricting treatments that doctors can discuss with patients and allow patients to appeal insurance companies' and HMOs' decisions to an external review board and sue for injuries or deaths resulting from denial of care (www.VoteCorzine.org). Franks backs similar legislation (www.BobFranks.com);
- The uninsured: Supporting an agenda of universal health care, Corzine favors legislation that would force employers to provide health insurance to employees through payroll plans, expand CHIP to the families of low-income children, offer tax credits to self-employed Americans to purchase health insurance and allow those ages 55 to 65 to buy into Medicare (www.FreedomChannel.com). Franks favors measures that would allow the self-employed to deduct health insurance premiums from their taxes (www.BobFranks.com). He also supports private, tax-exempt medical saving accounts that Americans could use to purchase health insurance (www.Issues2000.org);
- Abortion: Corzine supports a woman's right to choose and opposes parental consent and notification laws and a ban on "partial-birth" abortion, while Franks backs a partial-birth abortion ban except in cases where the woman's health or life is endangered (Issues2000.org).
In the race for New Jersey's 12th Congressional District seat, Rep. Rush Holt
(D-N.J.) and challenger former Rep. Dick Zimmer (R) have debated health care issues -- especially women's health concerns -- on the campaign trail. Earlier this month, Democrats launched a $200,000 mail campaign criticizing Zimmer for his record on women's health, including breast cancer screening. Republicans fired back, calling the campaign a "distasteful ploy," as Zimmer's three sisters have survived breast cancer and his mother died of lymphoma (Morgan, Reuters, 10/18). In the "seesaw battle," a Democratic poll conducted earlier this month showed Holt leading Zimmer 38%-36% within the margin of error, but a similar Republican-financed poll showed Zimmer ahead 40%-30% (King, Gannett News Service, 10/10).
In the race for retiring Sen. Patrick Moynihan's (D-N.Y.) seat, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) have battled over a number of health care issues throughout the heated contest. Throughout the last month, Lazio has launched his "central attacks" on Clinton's "failed" 1993 national health care plan, but recent polls show that voters still "overwhelmingly" believe that Clinton would "do a better job at overhauling the health care system." She also leads overall, 49%-41%, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted between Oct. 25-28 (Nagourney/Connelly, New York Times, 10/30). The candidates' positions on several key health issues appear below.
- Prescription drug benefit: Clinton supports a drug benefit for seniors under the Medicare program, while Lazio backs prescription drug coverage through government subsidies to private health plans (Issues2000.org);
- Patients' bill of rights: Clinton favors measures that would extend access to specialists and allow patients to appeal when HMOs deny care (
Hillary2000.org). While Lazio also backs legislation that would extend access to specialists and allow patients to sue HMOs, he opposes unlimited damages in lawsuits (Issues2000.org);
- The uninsured: Clinton backs plans to allow Americans between ages 55 and 65 to buy into Medicare, to extend CHIP to provide more children with coverage and to grant tax incentives and credits to small businesses that offer health insurance to employees (Hillary2000.org). Lazio, however, supports private, tax-exempt medical savings accounts that Americans could use to purchase health insurance;
- Abortion: Although Clinton supports a woman's right to choose, she favors a ban on "partial-birth" abortion, except in cases where the woman's health is endangered. While Lazio also supports abortion rights, he opposes federal funding for the procedure and partial-birth abortion, except in cases where the woman's life is endangered (Issues2000.org).
In the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race, incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum (R) and challenger Rep. Ron Klink (D) "sharply disagree" on a number of health care issues, with Santorum holding a "commanding" lead in recent polls (Torry,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/25). According to a WCAU-TV poll conducted by West Chester University between Oct. 19-22, Santorum maintains a 43%-35% lead over Klink among likely voters with a 4% margin of error (Associated Press, 10/25). The candidates' positions on several key health issues appear below.
- Prescription drug benefit: Santorum backs a prescription drug benefit through government subsidies to private health plans, while Klink favors prescription coverage under the Medicare program (FreedomChannel.com);
- Patients' bill of rights: Santorum backs legislation that would extend access to specialists, prevent insurance companies from restricting treatments that doctors can discuss with patients and allow patients to receive emergency room care without prior authorization (Santorum2000.org). Although Klink supports similar measures, he also favors legislation that would subject insurance companies' decisions to an independent appeals board and allow patients to sue insurance companies for injuries or deaths resulting from denial of care (
- The uninsured: Santorum favors a $1,000 tax credit for Americans without employee-sponsored coverage to purchase health insurance (FreedomChannel.com). He also supports medical savings accounts (Santorum2000.org). Klink, however, opposes medical savings accounts (Issues2000.com). In addition, he supports Medicare and Medicaid "giveback" legislation that would increase payments to providers and HMOs (KlinkforSenate.com);
- Abortion: Both Santorum and Klink support a ban on "partial-birth" abortion, although Klink would allow exceptions in cases where the woman's life is endangered (Issues2000.com).
In the race for Pennsylvania's 13th congressional district seat, incumbent Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D) and challenger Stewart Greenleaf (R) have tackled a number of health care issues on the campaign trail -- especially the hot-button Medicare prescription drug benefit question. Greenleaf supports providing drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries through government subsidies to HMOs, while Hoeffel, who backs a prescription drug benefit under the Medicare program, calls his rival's plan "too risky." Both candidates, however, support abortion rights. Greenleaf and Hoeffel, as well as health care groups, have "spen[t] heavily" on the race (Marx, Associated Press, 10/4). According to the Wall Street Journal, the race falls among the "decisive dozen" that will determine which party will control the House after the election. The Journal predicts that Hoeffel will retain his seat (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 10/30).
Incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) and challenger Bob Weygand (D) have dueled over health care issues in their quest for Rhode Island's U.S. Senate seat, with Chafee ahead 52%-28%, according to an Oct. 21-22 Providence Journal poll conducted by Brown University (Associated Press, 10/29). The candidates' positions on several key health issues appear below.
- Prescription drug benefit: Chafee supports a prescription drug benefit under the Medicare program and favors legislation that provides the greatest assistance to low-income seniors, while Weygand, who also backs a drug benefit through Medicare, opposes measures that would rely on government subsidies to private health plans;
- Patients' bill of rights: Both candidates back legislation that would extend access to specialists and emergency room care, prevent health plans and insurance companies from making medical decisions and allow patients to sue HMOs and insurance firms (FreedomChannel.com);
- The uninsured: Supporting increased federal funding for health care, Chafee favors measures that would provide hospitals with higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates (Issues2000.com). He also backs CHIP (ChafeeforSenate.com). Weygand supports legislation that would restore cuts to home health care providers, require states to use national tobacco settlement funds for health initiatives and provide tax credits to those who purchase long term health insurance (Weygand.com). In addition, he opposes private, tax-exempt medical savings accounts that Americans could use to purchase health insurance;
- Abortion: Chafee supports a woman's right to choose, while Weygand, who opposes "partial-birth" abortion, backs abortion only in cases of incest, rape and when the woman's life is endangered (Issues2000.com).
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