Focus on Health Care
San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday
examined how, with "health care emerging as
a chief domestic issue in the 2008
presidential race, the various candidates
are pitching numerous platforms designed to
reduce costs and broaden coverage."
"Noting the importance of individual choice
and responsibility in shaping health care,"
Republican candidates have proposed tax
credits or tax deductions to help U.S.
residents purchase private health insurance
and have encouraged health insurers to
"offer a wide, fiscally competitive array of
options," the Chronicle reports. Democratic
candidates have proposed to expand health
insurance to all or most residents and to
"outlaw the sale of insurance that allows
risk ratings based on health status,"
according to the Chronicle.
Robert Blendon, a professor of health care
and political analysis at the
Harvard School of Public Health,
said, "Everyone in the country agrees there
is a heath care crisis, but the visions of
the two parties are very different," based
on "the views and values of the people in
each of the parties." He said, "Republicans
are not interested in a candidate who wants
to cover everyone and create a new spending
program," adding, "They are more likely to
think that individuals have more of a
responsibility to have their own insurance
coverage." However, "what is incredibly
important to Democrats is that everybody be
covered; they feel it's in the national
interest," Blendon said.
The Chronicle also profiled the health care
positions of Clinton, Obama, Edwards, former
New York City Mayor
Rudy Giuliani (R), former
Mike Huckabee (R), Sen.
John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rep.
Ron Paul (R-Texas) and former
Mitt Romney (R) (Fernandez, San
Francisco Chronicle, 1/27).
Need for Universal
Voters, policy analysts and health care
advocates "agree universal coverage is
needed to get a handle on costs," the
Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Commonwealth Fund president Karen
Davis said that voters "certainly see ...
major growth in the number of uninsured." In
addition, she said, "They certainly see
health insurance premiums are going up a lot
faster than their wages, and, as a result,
they have less take-home pay." Judi Hilman,
executive director of the
Utah Health Policy Project, said,
"You've got to get everybody in. Whether you
call it a mandate or shared responsibility,
it is a very important feature of any
Democratic presidential candidates argue
that risk and costs should be spread across
a broader pool of people, according to
Jennifer Tolbert, principal policy analyst
Kaiser Family Foundation's
Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.
But Republican candidates "generally oppose
an increased government role or any
requirements on people to buy" health
insurance, the Tribune reports. Drew Altman,
president and CEO of the Kaiser Family
Foundation, said, "The general thrust for
all of the Republicans is to find ways to
make insurance more available in the private
individual marketplace and to make that
marketplace more affordable for people"
(Rosetta, Salt Lake Tribune, 1/28).
"Americans may be divided about the form
that health coverage should take, but
they're united on the need for better access
to health insurance," a
Daytona Beach News-Journal
editorial states. A recent poll found that a
majority of Republican voters supports a
"requirement that everyone can carry health
insurance and wants that responsibility to
be shared," the editorial states, adding,
"It's clear voters expect to hear candidates
offering realistic solutions and a firm
commitment to better health care." The
editorial states, "Americans show far more
enthusiasm for universal health coverage
than many of the candidates for president,"
adding, "The clear message: Candidates, for
Congress and state offices, as well as
president, shouldn't be so cautious"
(Daytona Beach News-Journal, 1/25).
Washington Times: Many of the
"problems in today's health care market are
the direct result of government distortions"
supported by Democrats, Times columnist
Andres writes. According to Andres, the
"party of small government may have more to
say about health care than you think." He
writes, "Republicans could address many of
the problems and concerns voters express
about health care by promoting more
market-oriented reforms as alternatives to
the continuation of Democrats'
big-government policies," adding, "In
Washington policy debates, effectiveness in
addressing problems is measured by size of
the government solution -- and bigger
programs or more spending are code for more
compassion" -- and "Republicans usually find
themselves with a deficit in both
programmatic bravado and rhetorical
empathy." However, he concludes, "by talking
more about curing the distortions caused by
misguided regulations, the party of smaller
government can find the medicine it needs to
help improve its standing on the issue of
health care" (Andres, Washington Times,
New York Times: Former President
Bill Clinton "may not have run as
postpartisan a campaign as legend has it,"
but "he did avoid some conflict by being
strategically vague about policy" on health
care and other issues, a move that "turned
out to be a disaster," Times columnist
Krugman writes. "Much has been written about
the process by which the Clinton health care
plan was put together," he writes, adding,
"Above all, however, it was too slow." Some
believe that "Mr. Obama's rejection of
health insurance mandates -- which are an
essential element of any workable plan for
universal coverage -- doesn't really matter
because, by the time health care reform gets
through Congress, it will be very different
from the president's initial proposal
anyway," Krugman writes, adding, "But this
misses the lesson of the Clinton failure: if
the next president doesn't arrive with a
plan that is broadly workable in outline, by
the time the thing gets fixed, the window of
opportunity may well have passed" (Krugman,
New York Times, 1/28).
Former Sen. Harris
Philadelphia Inquirer: "If voters
elect a Democrat next fall, this country
will have a new chance to secure universal
health coverage," Wofford writes in an
Inquirer opinion piece. He writes, "We are
so close to agreement on the basic approach
for a new Democratic administration that
it's no time to dwell on nuanced
differences," adding, "What the country
doesn't need in the present campaign is
further bickering over the details of the
three Democrats' proposed health care
plans," which is "beginning to sound like a
game of 'my plan is bigger and better than
yours.'" He writes, "What's good is that all
of the Democratic proposals are designed to
reach the goal of universal coverage,"
adding, "I consider Sen. Barack Obama's
health care proposals the most workable way
to get us to universal coverage" (Wofford,
Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/28).