Comparing Major Presidential Candidates' Health Care Proposals

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The Wall Street Journal on Thursday examined analyses of the health care proposals of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). According to the Journal, the effect of the proposals on individuals varies based on a number of factors, such as income, health status and health insurance status. The candidates, as well as a number of independent groups, have released analyses of the proposals, but "all projections have a lot of uncertainty" because the "plans leave a number of questions unanswered" and require "forecasters ... to rely on some guesswork, which can lead to varying conclusions," according to the Journal.

However, most of the analyses agree that the Obama proposal will reduce the number of uninsured residents more than the McCain plan. In addition, most of the analyses agree that, among "people wanting to buy insurance, the young and healthy could do particularly well under the McCain plan" and that "some older people, or those with pre-existing medical conditions, could lose out" under the proposal, the Journal reports (Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 10/23).

Scripps Howard on Wednesday also examined the Obama and McCain health care proposals (Sullivan, Scripps Howard, 10/22).

Additional Developments

Summaries of several other recent developments related to health care issues in the presidential election appear below.

* Firefighters: The International Association of Fire Fighters has released a television advertisement that criticizes McCain and two Senate Republicans who seek re-election on the potential effect of their health care proposals on firefighters and their families, the Washington Post's "The Trail" reports. The ad features four firefighters who raise concerns about the proposals. In the ad, one firefighter says, "Our job is to risk our lives to protect you, and your loved ones. We're proud of that." A second firefighter adds, "Like you, we need our health care for our families." A third firefighter says, "And now John McCain wants all of us to pay taxes on health insurance." Two other firefighters add, "Pay more taxes? Or lose coverage? No thanks." The ad concludes, "Join us. Let's protect all of our families. Let's fight McCain's plan to tax our health care, together." The ad will air in Orlando, St. Louis, New Hampshire, northern and eastern parts of North Carolina, parts of Ohio, and Prince William and Fauquier counties in Virginia. In addition to McCain, the ad will target Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) (O'Keefe [1], "The Trail," Washington Post, 10/22). The ad will cost $500,000 (Harder, "Ad Spotlight," National Journal, 10/22). IAFF also will send mailers in support of the Democratic opponents of Dole and Sununu (O'Keefe [1], "The Trail," Washington Post, 10/22).

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* Health care reform: Sens. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday promoted a health care reform bill (S 334) that they hope to have "in the wings" when the next president takes office, the Salt Lake City Deseret News reports. The Health Americans Act would effectively replace the employer-sponsored health insurance system with a system in which individuals would purchase private coverage through state-administered purchasing pools and would require all residents to obtain coverage. At a meeting with business leaders in Utah, Bennett said of the bill, "A key element is that it's bipartisan; it's got to be," adding, "The middle is a good place to start." He said, "I hope when the rhetoric clears post-election, the new president will see here's a bill with eight Republicans and eight Democrats co-sponsors that could very well be what he had in mind" (Thalman, Salt Lake City Deseret News, 10/20).

* Hispanic voters: Obama recently has sought to attract support from Hispanic voters in several swing states with radio and television ads that focus on health care and education, the Post's "The Trail" reports. As part of the effort, the Obama campaign has released a new radio ad that features a man and woman who raise concerns about negative ads released by the McCain campaign and discuss the Obama health care and tax proposals. The woman in the ad says, "My neighbor -- who has two kids -- lost her job and her health insurance last week." She adds, "And her husband, who works in construction, is about to lose his. I don't want to hear any more attacks. I want to know what the candidates will do for us." The ad will air on Spanish radio stations in Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Northern Florida, and a different version will air in South Florida (O'Keefe [2], "The Trail," Washington Post, 10/22).

Opinion Pieces

Summaries of two recent opinion pieces related to health care issues in the presidential election appear below.

* Dan Haar, Hartford Courant: "At a time when we're spending $1 trillion to prop up the ailing economy and still fighting a war or two, it might actually happen that the next administration will look for ways to cut federal spending," but the reductions should not include a decrease in subsidies to health insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans, Courant columnist Haar writes. He writes, "As with everything in the economics of medical care, it's not that simple," adding, "There are savings to be had, but nothing close to $15 billion a year without taking some medical services away from millions of retired people," as Obama proposed during one of the presidential debates. Haar writes, "Health care reform has to be about removing cost from the system," adding, "Obama, who favors managed care, was right that this is $15 billion of added cost, undoubtedly with some waste," but "it's not 'just a giveaway' to insurers" (Haar, Hartford Courant, 10/23).

* John Seffrin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Putting the country on firm economic footing will require that we improve the health care system for the nearly 46 million people without insurance and the estimated 25 million people with inadequate insurance that won't cover critical treatments for life-threatening diseases such as cancer," Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, writes in a Journal-Constitution opinion piece. He writes, "We can do better than the current system," adding, "To get there, we need to have a real debate about how best to improve health care." Seffrin concludes, "If instead we return to the destructive debate over private versus public health care, we will miss critical problems that must be addressed to dramatically improve America's health" (Seffrin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/23).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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