Democratic Presidential Candidates Discuss Health Care

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Presidential candidates Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on Thursday spoke at health care forums in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Families USA and the Federation of American Hospitals. Summaries of their comments appear below.

  • Biden: Biden said that the "biggest distinction" between his proposalto extend health coverage to all U.S. residents and those of otherDemocratic candidates is that his plan would reimburse employers,health insurers or associations for 75% of catastrophic health carecosts, a provision that he said would reduce costs (Kapochunas, CQ Today,10/25). In addition, he said that the proposal would not require U.S.residents to obtain health insurance (Goldstein, "Health Blog," Wall Street Journal,10/25). According to Biden, the debate about whether health care is a"right or a privilege" no longer exists. He added that "we need anational health care system of some kind that shares the responsibilityof providing health care for everyone" for the U.S. to remaincompetitive globally (Kapochunas, CQ Today, 10/25).However, Biden said that his proposal would exclude undocumentedimmigrants, except in emergency cases (Montanaro [1], "First Read," MSNBC.com, 10/25).
  • Kucinich:Kucinich said that he is the only candidate "who is talking about asingle-payer, not-for-profit health care system," which he called"Medicare for all." Kucinich promoted a bill (HR 676)he has introduced in the House with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) thatwould establish a publicly financed and privately delivered health caresystem funded through the elimination inefficiencies in the currentsystem and an increase in the Medicare part of the income tax from1.45% to 4.75% (Horrigan, CQ Today, 10/25). According to Kucinich, the legislation would include undocumented immigrants (Alexovich, "The Caucus," New York Times,10/25). He said, "One of the things we have to decide here is, ishealth care a right or is it a privilege?" adding, "If it's a right,then it's appropriate for the government to have a role in facilitatingthat right" (Horrigan, CQ Today, 10/25). In addition,Kucinich said that the health care proposals offered by otherDemocratic candidates are no different than plans offered by Republicancandidates (Montanaro [2], "First Read," MSNBC.com, 10/25).

The forums organizers have invited all of the presidential candidates to participate, and next on the schedule is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 11 am ET. The Kaiser Family Foundation hosts the forums in its Barbara Jordan Conference Center in Washington, D.C. Kaiser is webcasting the forums live through kaisernetwork.org, its health policy news and information service. Susan Dentzer of PBS' "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer" will moderate the forums, and additional panelists will include journalists from NPR, Wall Street Journal and ABC News. Live and archived webcasts, as well as additional information about the forums, are available on a dedicated Web site, http://presidentialforums.health08.org. The forums are being funded by The California Endowment and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 9/25).

Edwards on Medicare Advantage

In other election news, presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards(D-N.C.) on Thursday at Indianola High School in Iowa said that aspresident he would seek to end overpayments to private MedicareAdvantage plans, the Indianola Record-Heraldreports. According to Edwards, overpayments to MA plans lead to higherpremiums for beneficiaries enrolled in fee-for-service Medicare.Edwards said, "The problem is insurance companies are being paid moremoney for the services they provide under Medicare than the governmentis being paid."

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In addition, Edwards promoted his health careproposal, which he said would establish "health care markets" to helpconsumers find the appropriate health plan. Edwards also said that theBush administration has discouraged use of federal programs designed toincrease access to health care. "The Bush administration sets up somany hurdles to prevent people from taking advantage of the socialsafety net," he said, adding, "They want you to run from one agency toanother because they think people will give up" (Winn, Indianola Record-Herald, 10/26).

Republican Advisers Discuss Health Care

Health care advisers to Republican candidates on Thursday at a forum inWashington, D.C, discussed the proposals of their respectivecandidates, with a focus on efforts to reduce costs, CQ HealthBeatreports. The advisers said that competition among health insurers wouldhelp reduce health care costs and that revisions to the tax code wouldmake health insurance affordable for more U.S. residents.

Noneof the advisers said that their respective candidates support expansionof health insurance to all residents, but they said that all residentsshould have access to affordable coverage.

In addition, theadvisers rejected claims made by Democratic candidates that Republicancandidates would provide residents with tax breaks or credits topurchase private health insurance without regulatory changes needed toallow residents to find affordable coverage. They recommendedregulatory changes that would allow residents to purchase healthinsurance across states lines (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 10/25).

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 HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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