PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: DOLE, CLINTON TALK TOUGH
In the final presidential debate of 1996, President ClintonThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
and GOP nominee Bob Dole squared off in a town-hall style debate
last night in San Diego. "Dole repeatedly challenged President
Clinton on ethics and broken promises ... in a debate that
featured pointed and sometimes icy exchanges over taxes, the
deficit, Medicare, affirmative action and health care,"
WASHINGTON POST reports (Balz/Harden, 10/17). Dole made "strong
comments about Clinton's character and ethics within the White
House," and said that there "is no doubt ... that many American
people have lost their faith in government." SAN DIEGO DAILY
TRANSCRIPT reports that the president "did not respond to any of
the comments" about his character "and the audience did not ask
any direct questions" on the issue. Clinton instead "continued
to take credit for the country's healthy economy" and highlighted
his ideas and accomplishments regarding health care, the Family
and Medical Leave Act, and "reasonable tax cuts" (Gallagher,
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE I: When asked by a California
cardiologist what he would do to address "the problems with the
health care system in our country," Clinton cited the
administration's promotion of "more competition to bring down the
rate of inflation in health care costs without eroding health
care quality." He also said that his efforts have "added a
million more children to the ranks of the insured," and have
protected 25 million people's insurance through the
Kassebaum/Kennedy health insurance reform bill. He also touted
recently passed mandated minimum maternity stays. Clinton said
that in his next administration he would work to insure another
million children through Medicaid, "keep working with the states"
to add 2.2 million people to the ranks of the insured, "cover
people who are between jobs," and "make sure we protect the
integrity" of Medicare and Medicaid.
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE II: Dole responded, "First, let me
say there you go again, Mr. President, talking about a Medicare
cut." Dole said that in his proposal Medicare grows by at least
seven percent each year and increases 39% overall. "So let's
stop talking about cutting Medicare," he said. Dole went on to
attack Clinton's failed health care reform efforts. "Don't
forget what he tried to do with health care," Dole said.
"Seventeen new taxes. Spend $1.5 trillion. Fifty new
bureaucracies. Can you believe that?" Dole also said there
would have been "quotas" on the numbers and types of doctors in
the "extreme medical plan the government was going to take over
for all Americans." Dole also noted that he authored many of the
provisions in Kassebaum/Kennedy, including pre-existing condition
exclusions and portability requirements. "And there are other
things we can do. We still need to cover about 20 million people
and a lot of children," he said.
IT'S IN THE NUMBERS: In his response, Clinton said that the
American Hospital Association (AHA) said the GOP Medicare cuts in
the budget he vetoed "could have closed 700 hospitals" (C-SPAN,
10/16). However, AP/WASHINGTON TIMES reports that the AHA said
Clinton misquoted their data. According to AHA Senior Vice
President Rick Wade, the hospital group "identified about 700
U.S. hospitals that rely on Medicare and Medicaid for half or
more of their revenue and could have been more seriously affected
by some GOP plans." Wade said, "We never said 700 hospitals
would close" (10/17).
MANAGED CARE QUESTIONS: A health care worker asked Dole
what he would do as president to respond to the problems
associated with the denial of necessary services by managed care
plans. Dole said, "Well, one thing I did was to oppose the
government takeover of health care that President Clinton offered
in 1993. ... Everybody would have been forced into managed care"
under that plan. He also said, "We're going to have to ... take
a look at all the managed care going on in California, or we're
going to end up losing our best care that we have in the world"
(C-SPAN, 10/16). In his response, Clinton "asked members of the
audience to raise their hands if they were in managed care
programs," then asked them to "raise their hands if they liked
their coverage." Only two audience members raised their hands in
response to the second question (WASHINGTON POST, 10/17).
Clinton said that one thing he tried to do was make sure that all
managed care enrollees had "at least ... three choices of plans"
and the "right to get out without penalty every year." He said
"that's not a government takeover," but rather an effort to "set
the rules of the game." Clinton also voiced strong support for
legislation that would ban "gag" clauses in HMO provider
contracts. Clinton also said, "If we're saving money and
managing resources better, that's a good thing. If we're saving
money and depriving people of care, that's a bad thing." Dole
responded, "It's a national problem. ... We need to deal with
ENTITLED TO YOUR OPINION: On the impending bankruptcy of
the Medicare Trust Fund, Clinton said the program "needs help
now." He advocated the two-stage Medicare reform plan announced
last week by Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala
(see AHL 10/10). That proposal would extend the Medicare Trust
Fund for 10 years and then "have a bipartisan group look at what
we have to do to save it when the baby boomers retire." Dole
said "the president's playing politics with Medicare." He said
Medicare should be reformed the way Social Security was in the
early 1980s "with a nonpartisan commission," and said the Clinton
administration had previously called the commission "a gimmick"
but now supported it (C-SPAN, 10/16).
SMOKE SCREEN: An audience member "revived one of the major
controversies of Dole's campaign by asking him if he still feels
that smoking is not addictive." The POST reports that "Dole
replied by rehashing the noncommittal answer that triggered
headlines last summer" (10/17). Dole said that he had been asked
a "technical question" about the addictiveness of nicotine. He
said, "Maybe they -- they probably are addictive. I don't know.
I'm not a doctor." He noted that in 1965 he voted for
legislation to "put a little notice on cigarettes," and said he
"voted for everything since that time." Clinton responded by
touting his efforts to limit teenagers' access to tobacco (C-