Wall Street Journal Examines Proposals To Address Health Care Costs

Armen Hareyan's picture

Presidentialcandidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and BarackObama (D-Ill.) each have announced proposals that seek to reduce health carecosts, but "it is unclear how many of the candidates' ideas could actuallymake a dent in the rising cost of care," the Wall Street Journalreports.

According to the Journal, the candidates have proposed similarinitiatives to address health care costs, including: providing consumers withmore information to allow them to consider the cost and quality of medicaltreatments when they make health care decisions; promoting the use of genericmedications and health care information technology to help reduce costs; andsome form of medical liability reform.

McCain also has proposed to replace a tax break for employees who receivehealth insurance from employers with a refundable tax credit for the purchaseof private coverage and to allow the purchase of health insurance across statelines -- both of which he maintains would promote competition among healthinsurers and reduce costs.

Gail Wilensky, an adviser to McCain, said, "The real answer is we don'tknow" whether the proposals from the candidates would reduce health carecosts. She added that the alternatives include price controls and controllingthe spread of new technology, which "gets real ugly real fast." RobertReischauer, president of the Urban Institute, added, "Everybody is talkingabout the same kinds of things, but they are very difficult to do,"adding, "If we started on the campaign trail right now, you'd be lucky tosee the product of that in seven to 10 years, if everything was meshingright" (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 4/28).

Cost of Proposals

Health care and other proposals from each of the candidates could"significantly swell the budget deficit and increase the national debt bytrillions of dollars," the New YorkTimesreports.

According to the Times, Clinton and Obama have acknowledged thattheir proposals "would be costly but have outlined how to pay forthem," although "some fiscal monitors say they may be relying onoverly rosy projections of how much savings their proposals would actuallyyield." Clintonhas estimated that her health care proposal would cost about $110 billionannually, and Obama has estimated that his plan would cost as much as $65billion annually.

McCain has "spoken vaguely about making entitlement programs like SocialSecurity and Medicare less costly for the government" to help finance hishealth care and other proposals, the Times reports (Rohter/Cooper,Times, 4/27).



Health care advisers to each of the candidates on Thursday at a forum hosted bythe National Federation of Independent Business discussed proposals by thecandidates to expand health insurance to more residents and reduce costs, CQ HealthBeat reports.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a policy adviser for McCain, said, "Rising spendingon health care has been the biggest threat to the system. ... It is the reasonwe find employers dropping coverage" (Cooley, CQ HealthBeat,4/25). He added, "We are paying far too much for the outcomes we get"(Wall Street Journal, 4/28).

Katherine Hayes of the Clinton campaign said, "It's really heard to get ahandle on cost without addressing coverage," adding, "You can't openup the door (to tell) insurance companies that they have to take everybody ...if some people can wait until they're sick to enter the health caresystem."

Kavita Patel, an adviser to Obama, said that Obama and Clinton have "verysimilar" health care proposals, although the Obama plan would not requireall residents to obtain health insurance (CQ HealthBeat, 4/25).

McCain To Deliver HealthCare Speech

McCain on Tuesday plans to deliver a major policy speech on health care at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Fla.,according to his campaign, the Tampa Tribune reports. McCain spokesperson JeffSadosky said the speech will focus on the cost of health insurance, "whichSen. McCain feels is the root issue for the health care crisis as awhole," as well as the need to focus on preventive care and other issues(March, Tampa Tribune, 4/26).

Opinion Piece

"For the last month, news media attention was focused" on thePennsylvania Democratic primary, but, "as in the rest of the country thispolitical season," information "about the candidates' priorities,policies and principles" on health care and other issues "too oftendid not make the cut," Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Democraticpresidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), writes in a New York Times opinion piece. She writes,"Did you, for example, ever know a single fact about Joe Biden's healthcare plan?" adding, "But let me guess, you know Barack Obama'sbowling score."

According to Edwards, "[I]t's not as if people didn't want thisinformation," but few "people even had the chance to find out aboutJoe Biden's health care plan before he was literally forced from the race bythe news blackout that depressed his poll numbers, which in turn depressed hisfundraising." Such "shallow news coverage" allows residents to"ignore issues and concentrate on things that don't matter," Edwardswrites, adding, "If voters want a vibrant, vigorous press, apparently wehave to demand it" by "talking calmly, repeatedly, constantly in theears of those in whom we have entrusted this enormous responsibility"(Edwards, New York Times, 4/27).

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.