Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Kerry Selects John Edwards as Running Mate
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Tuesday selected as his vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), a former rival who has similar positions on health care and other issues, the Associated Press reports. During the Democratic presidential primaries, both Kerry and Edwards proposed large-scale health care plans (Woodward, Associated Press, 7/7).
Kerry proposed a health care plan would allow small businesses to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and the federal government would provide them with tax credits to cover as much as 50% of the cost of health insurance premiums for employees who make less than 300% of the federal poverty level, or about $55,000 for a family of four. In addition, the plan would expand public health insurance programs such as Medicaid and SCHIP. The plan also calls for the federal government to assume the costs of workers whose annual health care expenses exceed $50,000. Kerry has said that he would finance the plan, which would cost an estimated $653 billion over 10 years, through the repeal of tax cuts enacted by President Bush for families with annual incomes higher than $200,000 (California Healthline, 6/7).
During the campaign, Edwards proposed a $53 billion health care plan that would provide tax credits to help lower-income families purchase health coverage for their children through employers or the SCHIP program. Parents of children who have health insurance would receive tax relief. The proposal also would allow lower-income adults to purchase subsidized health coverage through SCHIP. In addition, adults ages 55 and older and their younger spouses could purchase health coverage through Medicare. Edwards had said that the proposal would provide health coverage to an estimated 12 million uninsured residents younger than age 21 and to eight million uninsured adults (California Healthline, 7/29/03).
Patients' rights has served as a "signature" issue for Edwards, who co-sponsored such a bill with Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2001 (Harris, Washington Post, 7/7). The Senate approved that bill, which would have allowed patients to file suit against HMOs in state court for unlimited damages or in federal court with damages limited to $5 million. However, senators could not resolve differences with a separate bill passed by the House (California Healthline, 6/23).
Patients' rights is "coming back into the presidential campaign" after a Supreme Court decision last month limited the ability of patients to file suit against HMOs in state court, the Wall Street Journal reports (Schlesinger/Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 7/7). NPR's "Morning Edition" on Wednesday reported on the nomination and Edwards' record as "one of the leading senators on health care issues," including his work for a patients' bill of rights and his support of legislation to hasten entry of generic drugs to the market. The segment includes comments from Edwards (Seabrook, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/7). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.