SENATE RACE: Candidates Offer Differing Plans
In the race for a seat in the Senate, Democratic incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Rep. Tom Campbell have both proposed "sweeping remedies for the sickly health care system," including guaranteed coverage for children from low-income families and prescription drug benefits for seniors, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although the Times calls both plans "greater parts sugar pill than bitter medicine," the paper reports differences between the candidates' proposals:
- The uninsured: Feinstein calls for greater child enrollment in the Healthy Families program, and believes that parents should be enrolled too. Currently, only 50% of eligible children are enrolled, she says. Campbell wants the federal government to negotiate with managed care providers to cover the underinsured.
- Medicare: Once the budget surplus "bail[s] out Social Security," Feinstein advocates using surplus money to fund Medicare. Campbell favors Medicare cost containment, seeking to limit program expansion relative to inflation and population increases. This plan would cap Medicare growth to 43% until 2007, compared to the 94% increase currently projected.
- Quality of care: Feinstein endorses the House-passed Norwood-Dingell bill and wants greater access to specialists, emergency rooms and OB/GYN care without prior authorization from HMOs. Campbell favors physician negotiation with HMOs for greater practice autonomy and says the Norwood-Dingell bill is too costly.
- Prescription coverage: Feinstein would add a surplus-funded prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Campbell would add drug coverage to Medicare for low-income individuals.
- Cost containment: Feinstein says that expanding low-cost coverage would decrease the number of emergency room visits by the uninsured. She supports "capping punitive damage awards" in malpractice lawsuits, and says the state and federal surplus should cover extra medical costs. Campbell advocates tort reform to "deter frivolous lawsuits" and calls for "increased competition among care providers" and capping federal payments to the states.