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Presidential Candidates Discuss Health Care

Armen Hareyan's picture

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

  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.): Clinton last week in Kansas City, Mo., met with more than 50ministers, mostly from black churches, and discussed her proposal toexpand health insurance to all U.S. residents, among other issues, the Kansas City Starreports. She said, "I learned a lot from what we tried to do in '93 and'94. I'm very proud we tried." Clinton added, "There's a greatconsensus building in the country to try and make some sensiblechanges" (Helling, Kansas City Star, 10/5). In related news, the AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegramon Saturday examined the validity of a Clinton television advertisementlaunched last week that claims she "championed" legislation toestablish SCHIP in the 1990s. According to the AP/Star-Telegram,although Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) is "widely viewed as the drivingforce behind the program, by all accounts" Clinton played a "crucial"role in the passage of the bill (Fouhy, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/6).
  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.): Edwards on Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" dismissed claims that he has changed his position on health care since his 2004 presidential campaign, the Washington Timesreports. In 2004, Edwards offered a proposal that would have expandedhealth insurance to about half of uninsured U.S. residents. His currentproposal would expand health insurance to all U.S. residents. Edwardssaid, "I am exactly the same person I was in 2004," but changes haveoccurred "both in America and in the world." In addition, Edwardscriticized the health care system as "dysfunctional." He said that"these problems cannot be solved with small incremental change" andrequire "big, bold ideas" (Bellantoni, Washington Times, 10/8). In related news, McClatchy/Miami Heraldon Sunday examined how "ridding the nation of poverty," which Edwardshas cited as the "cause of his life," only "became a dominant publictheme" for him in the "last few years." During his six-year Senateterm, Edwards "tended to concentrate on the middle class who needed aboost," such as "people with health insurance who didn't have access tospecialty care," McClatchy/Herald reports (Zagaroli, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 10/7).
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich (R-Ohio): Kucinich on Sunday at an AFL-CIOconvention in Oregon "made fun" of other presidential candidates for"refusing to stand up" to health insurers that are "driving health careinto the ground," the Oregonianreports. Kucinich said, "Somebody's running for president of the U.S.,and they're saying they can't take on the insurance companies?" Headded, "If you can't take on the insurance companies, who else can'tyou take on?" (Har, Oregonian, 10/8).
  • Sen. Barack Obama(D-Ill.): Obama on Friday during a speech at a northern Iowa communitycollege said that as president he would improve health care andeliminate delays in disability claims for veterans, the AP/Star-Telegram reports. Obama, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee,proposed to hire more staff to process disability claims and establishelectronic health records for veterans. "As president, I won't standfor hundreds of thousands of veterans waiting for benefits," he said,adding, "When a veteran is denied health care, we're all dishonored.... When 400,000 veterans are stuck on a waiting list for claims, weneed a new sense of urgency in this country" (Lorentzen, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/6). In related news, Obama on Saturday in Ottawa, Ill., told United Auto Workers members that health care will not receive proper attention as long as the war in Iraq continues (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 10/7).
  • Former Sen. Fred Thompson(R-Tenn.): Thompson last week in Iowa said he supports a reduction ofthe Medicare prescription drug benefit as part of a series of reformsto the program, the Wall Street Journal reports. Thompsonsaid that he would not have voted to establish the Medicareprescription drug benefit. He said, "I know this probably isn't a realpopular thing to say, but we couldn't afford this prescription drugbill. We basically put a $72 trillion commitment on top of analready-broken entitlement system." According to the Journal,the "politically risky" proposal may "endear him to fiscalconservatives," but "it isn't clear how that will play" among seniors(Schatz, Wall Street Journal, 10/8).

SEIU Endorsement

Service Employees International Unionofficials on Monday announced that the union will not endorse apresidential candidate and will allow state chapters to make individualendorsements, the AP/Contra Costa Timesreports. After state SEIU chapters endorse a presidential candidate,union activists from those states cannot campaign in states in whichunion chapters have endorsed a different candidate.

SEIUSecretary Treasurer Anna Burger said, "Any one of these candidateswould help create a new American dream for workers and their families."According to the AP/Times, the decision by SEIU not toendorse a presidential candidate is an "especially painful blow" toEdwards, the candidate most likely to receive the endorsement (Holland,AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/9).

AARP Survey

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About 99% of Democratic AARPmembers who likely will participate in the Iowa caucuses considerhealth care as somewhat important or very important in their decisionon which presidential candidate to support, but almost 30% of thosemembers lack adequate information about the positions of the candidateson the issue, according to a recent survey commissioned by the group,the Des Moines Register reports. The telephone survey, conducted between Sept. 24 and Sept. 26 by Woelfel Research,included responses from more than 500 Democratic AARP members who hadparticipated in any of the Iowa caucuses since 1988 and had a margin oferror of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Jeffrey Love,national research director for AARP, said, "I've seen a lot of nationalpolling on this," adding, "Health care is clearly the number two issueafter the war, but the war is constant"(Forgrave, Des Moines Register, 10/9).

Universal Health Insurance

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Sunday at the 2007 Cerner Health Conferencein Kansas City, Mo., said that the U.S. can "provide affordable healthcare for every American in intelligent ways," provided that voters "cutthrough the snake oil," the Starreports. According to Kerry, although opponents of universal healthinsurance proposals maintain that a single-payer system would limit thechoices of residents, none of the proposals from the major Democraticpresidential candidates would establish such a system. Kerry added,"We've got to make sure we fight back against a bunch of specialinterests that put their bottom line ahead of the bottom line of thecountry" (Karash, Kansas City Star, 10/7).

In related news, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelon Saturday examined how a requirement that all residents obtain healthinsurance, which both Clinton and Edwards have proposed, "crosses partylines" and "enjoys widespread support among both conservative andliberal health care economists and analysts." Such a requirement is"practical and politically doable" and is "something most Americans canidentify with," the Journal Sentinel reports (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/6).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.