Speakers at Democratic National Convention Support Kerry Health Care Plan; Democratic Platform Adopted
Several speakers on Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention promoted the health care plan proposed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.). Kerry has proposed a 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, 7/27). Summaries of the speeches made by several speakers appear below.
Howard Dean, a physician and former Vermont governor, said that he and Kerry would "fight for the things that Harry Truman promised us in 1948," such as "health insurance for every single American." He also said that Kerry would support veterans rather than "cutting their health benefits when they get back home" (New York Times, 7/28). Dean on Tuesday also spoke about the Kerry health care plan in a separate speech at a Cambridge, Mass., hotel, where he appeared with filmmaker Michael Moore. Dean said, "We've got to make it easier to organize labor in this country so people who work at Wal-Mart can get health insurance and don't have to get the minimum wage" (Gerstein, New York Sun, 7/28).
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) said that Kerry would "bring the American dream back to life for every American" by "tackling the rising costs of health care for all our people" (House, Arizona Republic, 7/28). Her speech was "loaded with references" to Arizona residents who had to "choose between health care and food," the Arizona Daily Star reports. Napolitano said that "Americans have had enough" with high health care costs and that "every American will have access to affordable, reliable health care" under a Kerry presidency (Erikson, Arizona Daily Star, 7/28). She added, "Under John Kerry's plan, every American can get the same high-quality health care that members of Congress have." In addition, Napolitano criticized the Bush administration for "making it illegal to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of seniors" under Medicare (Arizona Republic, 7/28).
Ron Reagan, the son of former President Ronald Reagan, called for an expansion of federally funded embryonic stem cell research that he said "should not -- must not -- have anything to do with partisanship." Reagan, whose father died of Alzheimer's disease last month, said that although many opponents of stem cell research are "well-meaning and sincere," others "are just grinding a political ax, and they should be ashamed of themselves" (Broder, Washington Post, 7/28). Reagan cited one case of a child with diabetes and asked, "What excuse will we offer this young woman should we fail her now?" Reagan called the decision on whether to vote for Kerry or President Bush a choice "between the future and past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology." He added, "I urge you, please, cast a vote for embryonic stem cell research" (New York Times, 7/28).
Democrats on Tuesday adopted their party platform, called "Strong at Home, Respected in the World," which includes a promise to work to provide affordable health care to all U.S. residents, the AP/Spokane Spokesman-Review reports (AP/Spokane Spokesman-Review, 7/28). The platform, which is not binding for the Democratic presidential nominee, also calls for:
- The legalization of the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada and other nations (Eichel, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/28);
- An extension of tax credits to help low-income U.S. residents purchase health insurance, which would cost an estimated $653 billion over 10 years and provide health coverage to 95% of residents (Detroit Free Press, 7/28); and
- An expansion of federally funded embryonic stem cell research (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/28).
"It is more important" to focus on health care in the 2004 election "than perhaps ever before" because of high costs and an increased number of uninsured U.S. residents, whom Bush administration officials and Republican lawmakers "have not lifted a finger" to help, Dean writes in an opinion piece for The Hill. The U.S. health care system is "simply wrong," Dean writes, adding that health care costs have increased by 50% since Bush took office and that "middle-class families are paying more than they can bear."
Although Bush and Congress have "done the bidding of the big prescription drug companies and HMOs that benefit from rising costs," Kerry has a "sensible" and "realistic plan to hold down costs and cover the uninsured without raising taxes on the middle class or putting in place a big government bureaucracy," Dean writes. He concludes that the Kerry health care plan "can pass Congress" and that voters in November "have a chance to fix" the health care system (Dean, The Hill, 7/26).
"It's no wonder" that Bush and Kerry have selected health care as "their main domestic issue," as recent polls indicate that more than 85% of voters consider the issue important to their decisions in November, Jonathan Weiner, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says in a "Marketplace" commentary. According to Weiner, the decision between the Kerry and Bush health care plans is not an "abstract" choice, adding, "Uninsured Americans are dying, quite literally, as they wait to see what happens" (Weiner, "Marketplace," APM, 7/27). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.