Presidential Candidates Discuss Health Care During Campaign Stops

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Summaries of several recent developments in the presidential campaign related to health care appear below.

  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton(D-N.Y.): Clinton on Sunday at a campaign event in Oakland, Calif.,discussed her proposal to expand health insurance to all U.S.residents, as well as other issues, the AP/San Jose Mercury Newsreports. The event marked one of several appearances in the SanFrancisco Bay Area that Clinton made over the weekend (Wohlsen, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 9/30). On Friday, Clinton adviser and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack at Allegheny General Hospitalin Pittsburgh, Pa., discussed the need for health care reform. Vilsacksaid that the health care "system has to be available to everybody,"adding that "moral reasons" exist to increase efficiency in healthcare. In addition, Vilsack cited a need for increased focus onpreventive care, improvement in health care quality and expanded use ofelectronic health records to help reduce costs. He also discusseddisparities in health care for blacks and in chronic disease managementamong states (Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/29).
  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.): Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of John Edwards, on Saturday delivered the keynote address at the 2007 Service Employees International UnionUnited Healthcare Workers-West Leadership Conference in San Jose,Calif., in which she expressed her support for legislation toreauthorize and expand SCHIP, the San Jose Mercury Newsreports. She also criticized President Bush for his threat to veto thebill and said health insurance "ought to be a right in a country likeAmerica" (Cohen, San Jose Mercury News, 9/30). On Saturday, Elizabeth Edwards at the George Mark Children's House-- a hospice and treatment facility for seriously and terminally illchildren in San Leandro, Calif. -- told families and supporters thatthey must "weave a tapestry" of support for such children (Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/30).
  • Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): McCain on Sunday at a campaign event at the Pinkerton Academy in New Hampshire said that the U.S. can make health care affordable and accessible without a single-payer system, the Manchester Union Leaderreports. In addition, McCain said that he does not support thelegalization of medical marijuana based on the opinions of medicalexperts who maintain that other, more effective pain medications exist(Kalil, Manchester Union Leader, 10/1).
  • Sen. Barack Obama(D-Ill.): Obama has "retreated on his pledge to undo part of PresidentBush's tax cuts" four months after announcing that he would eliminatetax cuts for households with annual incomes of more than $250,000, aswell as increase the tax rate for earned dividends, to fund hisproposal to expand health insurance to all U.S. residents, the Washington Times reports. According to the Times,the Obama campaign said that the changes would raise as much as $80billion in additional revenue, but critics said that "Obama was playingmath games when he proposed policies without identifying a fundingsource" (DeBose, Washington Times, 10/1).

Health Care Proposal Costs

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Presidential candidates have offered "scant" details about how theywould finance their health care proposals, but such details willdetermine whether their plans "can win the political support needed toget through Congress," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/29). According to the Post-Gazette,all of the major candidates have announced health care proposals, but"few health care experts see any realistic possibility for a realreduction in the price tag of a system that is as central to the healthof the economy as it is to that of individuals" (O'Toole, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/30).

Clinton,Edwards and Obama have said that they would eliminate tax cuts forhouseholds with annual incomes of more than $250,000 to finance theirhealth care proposals -- a "surefire applause line" -- but "there's aproblem with the bottom line," according to the AP/Raleigh News & Observer.The tax cuts will expire in 2011, and current federal budget estimatestake their expiration into account. Len Burman, a former deputyassistant secretary of the Treasury Department, said that the"government isn't counting on that money even now" and that claims ofincreased revenue from the elimination of the tax cuts "represents somesleight of hand."

In addition, although some proposals toreduce health care costs through increased efficiency "hold promise inthe eyes of experts ... it's too early to account for them in thebooks," the News & Observer reports (Woodward, AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 10/1). The AP/Post-Gazette on Sunday published a list of presidential candidates and their health care proposals (AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/30).

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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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