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Republican Presidential Candidates Discuss Health Care

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SevenRepublican presidential candidates on Sunday at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., discussed health care during a Spanish-languagedebate co-sponsored by the university and Univision that focused on issues related to Hispanics,the Wall Street Journal reports (Meckler [1], Wall StreetJournal, 12/10). The debate in large part focused on immigration, butsome of the candidates discussed health care. Former Arkansas Gov. MikeHuckabee criticized filmmaker Michael Moore for claims in his documentary"Sicko" that Cuba has a higher-quality health care system than theU.S. "I don't mind shipping him down there, but the rest of us I'd like toget health care right here," he said (Dinan, Washington Times, 12/10).

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney cited the need to expand health insuranceto more U.S.residents to improve access to care. He said, "The best kind of preventionyou can have in health care is to have a doctor. And if someone doesn't have adoctor, doesn't have a clinic they can go to, doesn't have health insurance tobe able to provide the prescription drugs they need, you can't behealthy." In addition, Romney discussed a recently implemented Massachusetts healthinsurance law that requires all residents to obtain coverage and providessubsidies for lower-income residents. According to Romney, "It cost us nomore money to help people buy insurance policies that they could afford than itwas costing us before, handing out free care."

Former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) cited theneed to revise the tax code to expand health insurance to more U.S.residents. U.S. residents "need, through the tax code, ... to have thebenefit of buying their own insurance through an open market with more sources,more people offering insurance, lifting regulations to make that happen,"he said.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), Sen. John McCain(Ariz.), former New York City Mayor RudyGiuliani and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas)also participated in the debate (AP/WichitaEagle [1],12/9).

Former President ClintonTouts Sen. Clinton Health Proposal

Former President BillClinton, husband of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), on Saturday in South Carolina promoted her proposal to expand healthinsurance to all U.S.residents, the AP/Eagle reports. During a speech to agraduate chapter of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Bill Clinton said that theproposal would provide health insurance for all 672,000 uninsured South Carolina residentsand save the average family in the state about $2,200 in health care costsannually. In addition, Bill Clinton met with several physicians, nurses andadministrators from the Medical University of South CarolinaChildren's Hospitalto discuss the proposal. He said, "We need to pass a universal health careprogram. We have a much better chance to succeed than we did in '93." BillClinton added, "It's both morally unacceptable and economicallyunsustainable to do what we're doing now" (Smith, AP/Wichita Eagle, 12/8).

In related news, Hillary Clinton has launched a new television advertisement inNew Hampshirethat "sums up the broad themes she has emphasized on the stump," suchas health care, according to the AP/Eagle. In the ad, titled "NewBeginnings," Hillary Clinton delivers a speech and promises a "newbeginning" for health care through her proposal. She says, "It takesstrength and experience to bring about change. I have a very clear record of 35years fighting for children and families, fighting for working people, fightingfor our future" (AP/Wichita Eagle [2], 12/9).

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Huckabee Says He WillNot 'Recant' 1992 Comments on HIV/AIDS

Huckabee on Sunday saidthat he will not "recant" statements made in 1992 in which he calledfor people living with HIV/AIDS to be isolated from the general population, theAP/International Herald Tribune reports. Huckabee -- who made thestatements in an Associated Press survey while running for Senatethat year -- wrote that in order for the federal government to effectivelyaddress the spread of HIV, "we need to take steps that would isolate thecarries of this plague." He added in the survey, "It is the firsttime in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plaguehave not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadlydisease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issueinstead of the true health crisis it represents" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/9). Huckabee in the 1992 surveyalso said that HIV/AIDS research was receiving too much federal funding, The Politico reports (Allen, The Politico,12/8).

Huckabee's campaign on Saturday released a statement from him saying that in1992 there was confusion over how HIV is transmitted. "We now know thatthe virus that causes AIDS is spread differently, with a lower level of contactthan with TB," Huckabee said in the statement, adding, "But lookingback almost 20 years, my concern was the uncertain risk to the general population-- if we got it wrong, many people would die needlessly." Huckabee alsopledged to make the fight against HIV/AIDS a central part of his presidency ifelected (Bacon, Washington Post, 12/9). Huckabee responded to the1992 Associated Press survey after it was "wellestablished" that HIV could not be spread through casual contact, the New York Times reports (Luo, New York Times,12/9). Although Huckabee acknowledged the prevailing scientific view in 1992,and since, that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact, he said he wasnot certain at the time. Huckabee cited a 1991 report of a dentist who infecteda patient with HIV -- an "extraordinary case that highlighted the risk ofinfection through contact with blood or bodily fluids" -- according to theAP/Herald Tribune.

Huckabee in an interview with Fox News Channel's "Fox News Sunday" said, "I still believe this today" that "we wereacting more out of political correctness" in responding to HIV/AIDS. Headded that his comments were not meant as a call to quarantine HIV-positivepeople, adding that his idea was not to "lock people up" (AP/InternationalHerald Tribune, 12/9). Huckabee added that he would state his position"a little differently" today, the Wall Street Journalreports (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 12/10).

Editorial, Opinion Piece

  • Washington Times: Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) "was the first candidate to offer a plan for health care reform," a proposal that "many suggest is a stepping stone to a single-payer system," a Times editorial writes. According to the editorial, Edwards "has been called a populist by many pundits, but that term is not entirely accurate" because, although "he is certainly proposing many liberal government programs, he does not explicitly attack corporate America or try and create a rift between income classes" (Washington Times, 12/10).

  • Daniel Gallington, Washington Times: A number of presidential candidates have announced proposals to expand health insurance to more U.S. residents, and private health insurers "are licking their chops over national insurance ideas that would have billions of dollars paid to them -- no matter who pays," Gallington, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, writes in a Times opinion piece. "While the insurance industry certainly won't mind if the federal government makes huge cash payments into their business system, they will mind if the government actually takes over -- or manages -- the health insurance business," Gallington writes, adding, "Therefore -- even if it becomes the cheapest and most efficient way for any part of a new health insurance system to work (for younger people, for example) -- it is unlikely to happen." Gallington writes, "In sum, how will individual voters, taxpayers and health insurance consumers figure in the new universal health insurance debate?" adding, "The short answer is that they won't: Just as the most expensive and least efficient alternatives for our other forms of government-sponsored health insurance ... have prevailed in the past -- they will likely prevail again" (Gallington, Washington Times, 12/9).

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.