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Democratic Candidates Clash Over Health Care Proposals

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Democrats' Health Insurance Proposals

Democratic presidential candidates debate in Nevada on health care and insurance. While Clinton and Obama Clash over health care proposals, Democrats' health-care plans may benefit health insurance providers.

Seven Democratic presidential candidates on Thursday at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas participated in a CNN debate, during which they discussed health care and other issues, the New York Times reports (Cooper, New York Times, 11/16).

During the debate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) cited a "big difference" on health care between herself and Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) (Blake, The Hill, 11/15). According to Clinton, his health care proposal "would leave 15 million Americans out" because the plan would not require all U.S. residents to obtain health insurance, a mandate included in her proposal. She said, "He talks a lot about stepping up and taking responsibility and taking strong positions. But when it came time to step up and decide whether or not he would support universal health care coverage, he chose not to do that" (Thomma, McClatchy/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 11/15).

In response, Obama said, "The only difference between Senator Clinton's health care plan and mine is that she thinks the problem for people without health care is that nobody has mandated -- forced -- them to get health care." He added, "That's not what I'm seeing. ... What I see are people who would love to have health care. They desperately want it. But the problem is they can't afford it." He also questioned whether a requirement that all residents obtain health insurance could be enforced. "She states that she wants to mandate health care coverage, but she's not garnishing people's wages to make sure that they have it," Obama said (Cooper, New York Times, 11/16).

Clinton also noted that former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) did not offer a proposal to expand health insurance to all residents during his presidential campaign in 2004 (Milligan, Boston Globe, 11/16).

Additional Comments On Health Care

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) said, "A president has to be a healer ... this has been one of the great divides in our country." He added, "I want to let the American people know that I'll stand for prenatal care, postnatal care, child care, a living wage, universal health care, sex education, birth control."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said that he "would have a hero's health card for every military person in this country ... which would mean that they could get health care ... anywhere they want." He added, "I would fully guarantee funding" at the Department of Veterans Affairs (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/15).

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Sens. Joe Biden (Del.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.) also participated in the debate (The Hill, 11/15).

Romney Has 'Distanced Himself' From Massachusetts Law
The AP/Boston Herald on Thursday examined how presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has "distanced himself from" the state health insurance law that he signed as governor and how Republican candidates are "trying to turn it into a political liability for Romney."

According to the AP/Herald, the law requires all state residents to obtain health insurance by Nov. 15 or face possible tax penalties after Jan. 1, 2008, and such a mandate is "anathema to fiscal conservatives and other bedrock GOP voters who oppose government intrusion." Presidential candidates former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) have cited the Nov. 15 deadline to remind Republican voters that Romney signed the law. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) has not cited the deadline but has said that he opposes a requirement that all U.S. residents to obtain health insurance.

During an interview in Iowa on Tuesday, Romney said, "I am the only Republican in this race that's actually succeeded in getting all of the citizens of my state on track to have health insurance," adding, "That's a good thing, and I'm happy to defend my plan."

The health care proposal that he announced earlier this year as a presidential candidate would not require all U.S. residents obtain health insurance. "I think mine is the ultimate conservative approach," he said, adding, "The good news is we've proved that we can get everybody insured without the government handing out government insurance, and without spreading Medicaid to everybody and without a government takeover of health care. ... I'm the only guy who's got a free-market way to get everybody insured" (AP/Boston Herald, 11/15).

Commonwealth Fund Report Lays Out Health Reform Recommendations
The health care proposals offered by presidential candidates do not go far enough to create a "high performance" health care system, according to a report released Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System, CQ HealthBeat reports.

According to the report, proposals should allow all U.S. residents to have health insurance that they can retain regardless of whether they change jobs, become a widow or widower, or develop a medical condition. Proposals also should establish a reimbursement system in which hospitals and physicians "share the accountability for the total care" of patients, the report states. In addition, proposals should promote increased coordination among health care providers, investments in health care information technology and increased focus on "evidence-based medicine," according to the report.

Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said, "It's absolutely clear we don't get value for our health care dollar," but the election of a new president will provide "an historic opportunity to transform our health system." The commission will release additional reports in future months (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 11/15).

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.