Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Sen. John Kerry Promotes Health Care Plan in Florida
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Monday in a campaign speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., promoted a U.S. health care system for "the future," the Dallas Morning News reports (Jackson, Dallas Morning News, 7/27). Kerry said that as president, he would promote a health care system that would provide universal health insurance for children and allow uninsured adults to purchase coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (Shelton, Orlando Sentinel, 7/27). In addition, Kerry said that he would improve health care for U.S. residents through technological advances. "We need to modernize our health care system and push boundaries of medical exploration," Kerry said, adding, "We can use technology and the promise to strengthen our health care system and help millions of Americans" (Hunt, Washington Times, 7/27). In response to concerns that employers will drop coverage for retirees when the new Medicare prescription drug benefit takes effect in 2006, Kerry said, "Are you terrified of that happening? You should be. There is nothing to stop them from dropping you" (VandeHei/Romano, Washington Post, 7/27). Kerry also said that he would seek to increase research into treatments for diseases and ease restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research imposed by President Bush (Orlando Sentinel, 7/27). Kerry said, "We need a president who believes in science, and who is prepared to invest in America's efforts to cure Parkinson's and AIDS and diabetes and Alzheimer's and do stem cell research," adding, "Let's go forward" (Wilgoren, New York Times, 7/26).
Republicans predicted that Kerry would lose the election to Bush in part because his health care plan "would be too expensive and too bureaucratic," the Morning News reports (Dallas Morning News, 7/27). Kerry has proposed a health care plan that would cost $653 billion over 10 years and expand health coverage to an estimated 26.7 million U.S. residents. Kerry has said that he would finance the plan through the repeal of tax cuts for families whose annual incomes exceed $200,000 (California Healthline, 7/19). Reed Dickens, a spokesperson for the Bush campaign, said, "The important thing to remember is that (Kerry) only talks about health care ... in election years," adding, "He missed 36 out of 38 votes on the (Medicare) prescription drug plan. He has no credibility on health care issues" (Orlando Sentinel, 7/27). Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) also criticized Kerry for his opposition to a federal cap on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, which he said would reduce the cost of malpractice insurance and health care. Weldon said, "Frivolous lawsuits cause more Americans to be uninsured and drive U.S. jobs overseas" (Dallas Morning News, 7/27).
The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday examined the positions of Kerry and the 37-page Democratic Party platform, which is "vague and silent on some of the far-reaching issues that will confront the next president," such as the "financial instability" of Medicare. According to the Times, Kerry has not proposed a "clear path to solvency" for Medicare, and experts agree that the "longer the government takes" to address the issue, "the harder it will be." Kerry and the Democratic Party platform "pledge fealty" to Medicare, but they "say more about what they will not do than what they will to avert insolvency," the Times reports. Kerry has said that he opposes the privatization of Medicare, reduced benefits and increased taxes to cover the cost of the program, and his campaign Web site includes a plan to "protect and strengthen" Medicare and to improve benefits. The Democratic Party platform calls for a reduction of "waste and abuse" in Medicare and the use of competitive bidding to reduce costs (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 7/27).
PBS' "Nightly Business Report" on Monday in the first part of a weeklong series on the presidential candidates and their positions on a number of issues examined Kerry and his health care plan. The segment includes comments from Kerry (Gharib, "Nightly Business Report," PBS, 7/26). The complete transcript of the segment is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.