Presidential Candidates Address Census Bureau Report on Uninsured U.S. Residents
The candidates for the U.S. presidency delivered "sharply different views" of U.S. Census data released Thursday that showed an increase in the number of uninsured and low-income U.S. residents, the New York Times reports (Leonhardt, New York Times, 8/27). The data was a "key part" of messages delivered by Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) in Minnesota and Sen. John Edwards (N.C) in New Mexico, the Washington Post reports (VandeHei, Washington Post, 8/27).
Kerry, speaking at a two-hour event at Anoka Technical College in Minnesota, said the report showed that the Bush administration had prioritized the interests of the wealthy, according to the New York Times (New York Times, 8/27). During the event, which was "billed as an unscripted health care forum for undecided voters," Kerry outlined his proposal for a national health plan, including plans for a voluntary program that would give all children health coverage, provide a tax credit for small businesses and self-employed people and relaxing restrictions on prescription drug purchases to reduce costs, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Schmickle/Von Sternberg, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/27).
Kerry said, "The census figures are facts. They're not political diatribe. They're facts, statistics, and they tell a story when you add them all up" (New York Times, 8/27). In a statement, Kerry "seized on" the census data as an opportunity to depict the Bush administration's economic policies as unsuccessful, according to the Los Angeles Times. Kerry said, "While George Bush tries to convince America's families that we're turning the corner, slogans and empty rhetoric can't hide the real story" (Gosselin, Los Angeles Times, 8/27).
In three campaign appearances in New Mexico, Bush "made no mention" of the census figures, but campaign aides "rushed out 'talking points,'" including one that said the current Census Bureau data shows a lower percentage of uninsured U.S. residents than the highest percentage reported during the Clinton administration, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 8/27). Bush campaign spokesperson Terry Holt said the data released Thursday were outdated because they covered only 2003. "Absent from these numbers is the strong economic growth we've seen in the last 11 months," Holt said (New York Times, 8/27).
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) said that although the number of people without health insurance grew last year, the number with coverage also grew by nearly one million residents. Barton said, "More people in America have health coverage today, and I think that's a fact worth noting" (Los Angeles Times, 8/27).
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said he was disappointed by the health insurance numbers. He said, "Unfortunately, Senator Kerry and the Democratic leadership in Washington have stood in the way of common-sense reforms" that would reduce the cost of health insurance. Frist said Democrats have impeded efforts to pass reforms on medical malpractice awards; to allow small businesses to band together to bargain for lower premiums; and to provide tax credits to help the uninsured pay for private insurance (MacDonald, Hartford Courant, 8/27).
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson supported Bush's record on health care, saying, "The president is investing significantly in health care technology to bring down the cost of delivering medical care, and he continues to press for medical liability reform as frivolous lawsuits and defensive medicine continue to drive up health care costs" (Colorado Springs Gazette, 8/27).
Democrats "accused the Bush administration of trying to bury the new numbers" by releasing them all together in late August, rather than reporting the poverty and health insurance data on separate days in September, as has been done in recent years, according to the New York Times. Census officials said that political strategy did not play a role in the change and noted that the two sets of data had also been released simultaneously in the mid-1990's.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said "They're trying to lump, dump and run." Census Bureau director Charles Louis Kincannon said, "Normally, we're not criticized for bringing out data earlier" (New York Times, 8/27). He added, "There has been no influence or pressure from the [Bush] campaign" (Blanton, Boston Globe, 8/27).
Speaking at a town hall-style meeting at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Colorado, Edwards told supporters that the Bush administration has "no health care plan," the Denver Post reports. Edwards said that health care issues are "one of the two or three most important issues facing America today." He added that Bush has "no plan to cover millions of Americans who have no health coverage and no plan to bring down health care costs for everybody" (Bunch, Denver Post, 8/27).
In reference to the recent census data, Edwards in New Mexico earlier Thursday said, "I can't believe the American people will re-elect a man that cost 1.4 million people their health care" (Washington Post, 8/27). Edwards criticized Bush's request in previous speeches for the opportunity to serve as president for four more years to continue "doing good" for the country saying, "Unfortunately, this is what we've seen year after year after year for the last 3 1/2 or four years. I just don't know if America can take that kind of good for four more years," the Colorado Springs Gazette reports (Henley, Colorado Springs Gazette, 8/27).
Edwards said that repealing the tax cuts for U.S. residents whose annual incomes exceed $200,000 would fund Kerry's proposal to provide U.S. residents with health coverage similar to federal employee's coverage. He said, "There's no excuse for politicians in Washington to get better health care than you're getting" (Denver Post, 8/27).
ABC's "World News Tonight" on Thursday reported on Bush and Kerry's proposed health care plans (Harris, "World News Tonight," ABC, 8/26). A excerpt of the report is available online.
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Friday examined how Bush has acted on his 2000 campaign promises, including those relating to Medicare (Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 8/27). The full segment is available online.