Presidential Candidates Discuss Health Care Issues in Final Campaign Speeches Before Election Day
President Bush in a campaign appearance in Milwaukee on Monday "plugged" his enactment of a new Medicare prescription drug benefit as the fulfillment of a campaign promise that he made in 2000, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Bush also said that his plans to expand health savings accounts and enact medical liability reforms would help control U.S. health care costs.
In addition, Bush criticized the health plan proposed by Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) -- under which the federal government would cover catastrophic health care costs and allow U.S. residents to purchase health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan -- as "the wrong prescription" for Wisconsin families. Bush said that the health care plan, as well as other plans Kerry has proposed, would cost a total of more than $2 trillion over 10 years. He added that although Kerry has proposed to finance the plans through the repeal of tax credits for higher-income U.S. residents, that proposal would not work.
Bush also promoted his enactment of a law opposed by Kerry that bans so-called "partial-birth" abortion. Bush said, "There is a mainstream in American politics and John Kerry stands on the far left bank. He can run from his liberal record, but he cannot hide" (Schultze, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/1).
Kerry on Monday made campaign appearances in six cities in four states -- Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin -- in which he said that Bush has "abandoned the middle class," who are "squeezed between falling wages and rising prices for health care," to enact tax cuts for high-income U.S. residents, the AP/Tallahassee Democrat reports. Kerry in an Orlando, Fla., airport "criticized Bush for doing nothing as five million people lost health care coverage in the past four years." In addition, he said that Bush has blocked efforts to allow the purchase of lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada (Fitzgerald/Douglas, AP/Tallahassee Democrat, 11/2).
Kerry said, "This is the moment to hold George Bush accountable for the deficits, for the loss of health care, for the loss of jobs, for the loss of America's influence and respect in the world" (Shepard, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/1).
CongressDaily on Monday examined how Bush -- who has cited safety concerns as his main objection to prescription drug reimportation from Canada and other nations -- recently indicated that he might support the practice, provided that those concerns are addressed.
Bush in the second presidential debate said, "I just want to make sure they're safe. When a drug comes in from Canada, I want to make sure it cures you and doesn't kill you. ... And my worry is that, you know, it looks like it's from Canada; it might be from a Third World (country)." He added, "It may very well be here in December you hear me say I think there's a safe way to do it."
According to CongressDaily, "many Democrats say they are convinced the administration's objections to imported drugs are based substantially on a desire to protect the United States' drug companies' highly profitable domestic market."
House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health ranking member Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said, "I have as much trust in his willingness to reimport drugs as I do in pigs taking wing and flying. The president is clearly a captive of the pharmacy industry and will do nothing to oppose them."
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said, "Three weeks before the 2000 election, George W. Bush said he favored prescription drug importation. The president spent the next four years fighting it at every turn. Three weeks before this election, he says he might allow importation after Election Day. He can run from his record on this issue, but he can't hide."
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Director and former Rep. Barbara Kennelly (D-Conn.) said, "There's no evidence why I wouldn't think there might be even stronger enforcement" against reimportation if Bush is re-elected.
Families USA Director Ron Pollack said that if Bush is re-elected, "there will be an attempt at tough re-enforcement of rules against importation," but he could allow state and local governments to establish reimportation programs (Rich, CongressDaily, 11/1).
CBS' "Evening News" on Monday in the final installment of the "What Does it Mean to You?" series examined the positions of Bush and Kerry on medical liability reform. The segment includes comments from Bush, consumer advocate Doug Heller and Kerry (Andrews, "Evening News," CBS, 11/1). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In addition, KQED's "Forum" on Friday in the first hour of the program included a discussion of Bush and Kerry's health care plans. Guests on the program included Ceci Connolly, staff writer for the Washington Post on health policy issues; Martyn Hopper, California director of the National Federation of Independent Business; and Steven Schroeder, professor of health and health care at the University of California-San Francisco's Department of Medicine and former president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Coiro, "Forum," KQED, 10/29). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.