Republican Candidates Discuss Medicare Drug Benefit, Health Reform
On Monday, Republican presidential candidates discussed a number of health policy issues -- including Medicare Part D, the federal health reform law and mandatory vaccinations -- during a debate in Tampa, Fla., the New York Times reports (Zeleny/Parker, New York Times, 9/12).
Cain Calls for Repeal of 'ObamaCare'
Responding to a question about the candidates' plans to reduce the cost of health care, former pizza company CEO Herman Cain said, "First, repeal ObamaCare in its entirety." Though the response garnered applause, repealing the overhaul would not address current health care costs because many of the reform law's provisions do not take effect until 2014, the Washington Post notes.
Cain went on to espouse greater deductibility of health care costs, tort reform and "market-driven, patient-centered reforms" as ways to lower the cost of care (Tumulty, Washington Post, 9/12).
Bachmann, Romney Criticize Reduction of Medicare Spending Under Reform Law
When asked about Medicare, two candidates mentioned the federal health reform law's attempts to cull savings from the program.
The overhaul seeks to slow Medicare spending by $500 billion over the next decade. Of those spending reductions, about 40% would come from reducing Medicare payment growth to hospitals and providers other than doctors, while another 25% would come from reductions in payments to Medicare Advantage plans, which paid 9% more than traditional Medicare plans in 2010.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) said, "We know President Obama stole over $500 billion out of Medicare to switch it over to ObamaCare" (Gabriel, "The Caucus," New York Times, 9/12). Later, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Obama "cut Medicare by $500 billion. This, the Democrat president, the liberal, so to speak, cut Medicare -- not the Republicans, the Democrat" (Kessler, "The Fact Checker," Washington Post, 9/13).
Romney Distances Massachusetts Reform Law From Federal Overhaul
Romney continued to attempt to distance the 2006 Massachusetts health overhaul he signed into law from the federal reform law, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. "If you think what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did are the same, take a closer look," Romney said, adding, "Because number one, he raised taxes $500 billion ... . We didn't raise taxes."
He also said that the Independent Payment Advisory Board under the federal health reform law "ultimately is going to tell people what kind of care they can have. We didn't do anything like that" (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/12).
Paul Garners Applause for Response to Question About Uninsured Individual
Moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Texas Rep. Ron Paul about the individual mandate in the federal health reform law. Blitzer asked, "A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it. Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?" (Hendin, "Political Hotsheet," CBS News, 9/12).
Paul initially deferred on the question, but received cheers from the audience when he responded, "That's what freedom is all about -- taking your own risks" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/12).
Blitzer followed up with the question, "But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?"
Paul said, "No," and explained that in the early 1960s when he practiced medicine in Texas that "churches took care of" people who could not afford care. Paul continued that "the reason the cost is so high" in the U.S. health care system is "because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy" ("Political Hotsheet," CBS News, 9/12).
Candidates Discuss Medicare Part D
During a discussion of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, none of the candidates said they would repeal or trim the program.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Part D "a $17 trillion hole that we have in our budget we've got to deal with," adding, "I think that's the issue of: How do you find the savings and still deliver the services?"
Perry said that making the government more efficient could be the answer. He noted that in Texas they "combined a substantial amount of our health and human services from 10 down to five agencies. We put an Office of Inspector General into place, and we saved over $5.3 billion ... just by finding the waste and fraud in Texas state government. I'm thinking there might be more waste and fraud in the federal government than even there is in the Texas government" (Washington Post, 9/12).
Candidates Attack Perry Over HPV Vaccine Executive Order
The candidates repeatedly targeted Perry on his 2007 executive order mandating that 11- and 12-year-old girls in the state be vaccinated against human papillomavirus. Bachmann said the order was "just flat-out wrong."
In August, Perry said it was a "mistake" to require girls to receive Merck's Gardasil HPV vaccine, which prevents the sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer. Perry on Monday repeated his lament (New York Times, 9/12).
The governor said he stands by his decision to require the vaccines, but said that if he were to do it again, he would go through the legislature rather than using an executive order (AP/Washington Post, 9/12).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.