Health Care Costs: Top Concerns for Democratic, Republican Voters

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Health Care Costs

Exit polls from New Hampshire indicate that economic issueshave "overtaken all other issues as the top concern" in thepresidential election for both Democratic and Republican voters, the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, voters"have different anxieties about the economy." Some voters haveconcerns about jobs or housing, and health care and energy costs "troublelarge swaths of the population," the Post reports.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) "managed to tap into thatanxiety" this week in her win of the New Hampshire presidential primary,as she "repeatedly cited her husband's record of producing 22 million newjobs while promising to make college more affordable and to ensure universalhealth care."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is " the only whose economic messagebreaks from party orthodoxy with a more populist appeal on the plight of theworking class, concern over income inequality and doubt about the effectivenessof free trade," according to the Post (Baker/Balz, WashingtonPost, 1/11).

Editorial

"Worries about healthcare" and other economic issues have "fed a growing sense of economicdiscontent across the country," according to a Kansas City Star editorial. The major Democraticpresidential candidates "recognize the critical importance of improvingthe country's health care system," the editorial states, adding,"Such changes are essential to keep the American economy competitive andto curb the unsustainable growth in federal spending, notably inMedicare."

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The editorial states, "In the weeks ahead, the candidates in both partiesneed to be more honest with the public about the difficult economic challengesfacing the country," as "too many expensive promises have been madewith too little discussion of the inevitable tradeoffs and sacrifices thatwould be required" (Kansas City Star, 1/10).

Opinion Piece

Democratic presidential candidateand former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) is "leveraging the tragic story"of Nataline Sarkisyan -- a 17-year-old girl who died after Cignarefused to cover a lifesaving liver transplant that she required -- to"press his political attack on insurance companies and argue forEuropean-style, single-payer health care," but he is "twisting thefacts," Scott Gottlieb, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in a Wall Street Journalopinion piece.

According to Gottlieb, data indicate that "U.S. transplant patients do quitewell compared to their European counterparts" and have "significantlymore opportunities to undergo transplant procedures, survive the surgery andbenefit from new organs," regardless of their income levels. He adds thatCigna decided not to cover the liver transplant for Sarkisyan because theprocedure "constituted an experimental use of a scarce organ."Gottlieb writes, "Ideally, everyone who can benefit from an organtransplant would receive one," but, "with more patients thanavailable organs, some form of allocation procedure involving administrativejudgments is inevitable."

Data indicate that the "government allocation procedures do a somewhatworse job, as far as health outcomes are concerned, than private allocationprocedures" in the U.S.,he adds. "Our system in the U.S. for allocating scarce resources remainsimperfect" but likely is "superior to the single-payer systems thatMr. Edwards would have Americans emulate -- and certainly better than the factsthat Mr. Edwards wants us to believe," Gottlieb concludes (Gottlieb, WallStreet Journal, 1/11).

Letter to the Editor

"Good intentions aside," arequirement that all U.S.residents obtain health insurance would "mean higher prices and fewerchoices for Americans" and would not "solve the problems facinghealth care today," Kate Campaigne, a legislative specialist for healthand welfare with the Heartland Institute, writes in a Journal letterto the editor in response to a Wednesday opinion piece. Such a requirementwould "force Americans to buy insurance, regardless of its quality, costor whether they need insurance in the first place," she writes, adding,"Consumers should have a choice of whether they want insurance and decidefor themselves which plan best fits their needs."

According to Campaigne, the "so-called 'option' of government-run healthcare" would "drive out private insurers who actually have to competefor customers, leaving consumers with one choice: the government." Shewrites, "Most people think health care needs reform, and yet some of themsuggest forcing dissatisfied consumers to buy a bad product," but this"makes no sense." Campaigne concludes, "The high cost of healthinsurance is a direct result of too much government involvement and 'solutions'like mandates" (Campaigne, Wall Street Journal, 1/11).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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