“Michael Moore’s latest film, ‘Sicko,’ was a smash hit over the weekend. The documentary about the health care industry was sold out at all its ’sneak’ screenings in 43 locations around the country including Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta, and Detroit.”Polls continue to show that voters feel this is our number one domestic issue, but what about our 2008 presidential candidates? I'll cover the Republicans first and get to the Democrats later this week.
McCain, Giuliani, Hunter and Paul don't even mention health care on their campaign websites. Ouch! Are they out of touch with voters or what? I did find some statements they made though. From McCain:
The Arizona lawmaker told ABC’s “This Week” that he and his staff are developing a health plan “that every American can take advantage of and afford.” The timing of an announcement is unclear, but he said its elements would include tax incentives for low-income people so they buy health coverage, community health centers, expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, putting health care online, medical malpractice reform, and making health savings accounts more available.Color me unimpressed. McCain will have to do better than that. Tax incentives so poor people can buy health coverage? Does he even know how much health insurance costs? If poor people had the money to buy insurance, they'd have it already.
Giuliani sounds a lot like McCain:
Among Republicans, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is working on a package of incentives to get more people to buy their own coverage in the individual insurance market and to make that coverage affordable. Health insurance should be more like car insurance, he says, where people pay out of pocket for minor repairs and maintenance.At least Giuliani actually says he wants to make insurance more affordable, but his statement about car insurance shows how out of touch he is with the real world. I don't know of a single car insurance policy that covers maintenance, and the same goes for minor repairs.
Moving along to Tommy Thompson, former US Secretary of Health and Human Services, here's his plan to fix health care from his campaign website:
Governor Thompson believes we must build a system that is affordable and accessible for everyone. And we can do this without a government-run health care program that includes the worst aspects of socialized medicine.Thompson is talking about Medicare when he talks about socialized medicine. From personal experience, I can say that Medicare has always provided good medical treatment for my loved ones from hip replacements to physical therapy to preventative measures like pneumonia shots, and overall they've all been happy with it. I suspect Thompson would like to see the government taken out of the program for personal reasons.
Thompson is the President of Logistics Health, Inc. He is also senior partner at Akin Gump, a Washington, D.C., law firm, and is additionally a senior advisor at the consulting firm Deloitte and is the chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.The WaPo picked up on this too and reported the following last summer:
Tommy G. Thompson, the former secretary of health and human services, proposed overhauling Medicaid in ways that he says would be good for the country. Critics contend that some of Thompson's recommendations also could be good for companies that he works for.It might benefit Tommy Thompson's bottom line, but it won't help taxpayers. The Congressional Budget Office determined that, on average, the federal government is paying private plans 12 percent more than it costs to treat comparable beneficiaries through traditional Medicare.
How about the candidate that Republicans prefer to ignore - Ron Paul? He thinks Congress should pass the following series of bills to reduce health care costs and leave more money in the pockets of families:
HR 3075 provides truly comprehensive health care reform by allowing families to claim a tax credit for the rising cost of health insurance premiums. [...]These bills won't help people. What good are tax credits if people don't have the money to pay their monthly premiums or purchase the medicine they need today? And what about that medical malpractice crisis mentioned? From the NY Times:
HR 3076 is specifically designed to address the medical malpractice crisis that threatens to drive thousands of American doctors - especially obstetricians - out of business. The bill provides a dollar-for-dollar tax credit that permits consumers to purchase "negative outcomes" insurance prior to undergoing surgery or other serious medical treatments. [...]
HR 3077 makes it more affordable for parents to provide health care for their children. It creates a $500 per child tax credit for medical expenses and prescription drugs that are not reimbursed by insurance. It also creates a $3,000 tax credit for dependent children with terminal illnesses, cancer, or disabilities. [...]
HR 3078 is commonsense, compassionate legislation for those suffering from cancer or other terminal illnesses. The sad reality is that many patients battling serious illnesses will never collect Social Security benefits-- yet they continue to pay into the Social Security system. When facing a medical crisis, those patients need every extra dollar to pay for medical care, travel, and family matters. HR 3078 waives the employee portion of Social Security payroll taxes (or self-employment taxes) for individuals with documented serious illnesses or cancer. It also suspends Social Security taxes for primary caregivers with a sick spouse or child. [...]
Lawsuits against doctors are just one of several factors that have driven up the cost of malpractice insurance, specialists say. Lately, the more important factors appear to be the declining investment earnings of insurance companies and the changing nature of competition in the industry.And I just bet the insurance industry would love to see negative outcome insurance gain acceptance, they'd make a lot of money from the millions of policies they'd sell, not to mention the money they'd save on lawyer fees. Finally, exempting social security taxes for terminal illnesses is a nice gesture, but it's just a drop in the bucket for a family facing crushing medical bills.
The recent spike in premiums - which is now showing signs of steadying - says more about the insurance business than it does about the judicial system.
That brings me to Mitch Romney. Here's what he says about health care on his campaign website:
The health of our nation can be improved by extending health insurance to all Americans, not through a government program or new taxes, but through market reforms.This statement somewhat contradicts the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Plan he helped initiate to cover the uninsured. The plan expands Medicaid eligibility and offers subsidies for the purchase of private coverage to low-income individuals and families, all funded by the government.
Massachusetts was motivated to come up with this plan in part because the federal government threatened to eliminate $385 million in federal Medicaid money unless the state reduced the number of uninsured people, and the state was already spending more than $500 million in federal and state money annually to compensate hospitals for treating the uninsured. They simply redirected that money to insurance coverage. Besides those government funds, Romney also earmarked an anticipated revenue surplus (tax dollars) for expanded coverage. All that funding sounds like a government program to me.
I'll leave it up to you to decide whether his plan was political grandstanding or not. I give Romney credit for doing something, although it still relies too heavily on the private sector for my tastes, and it fails to deliver good care at an affordable price. Physicians for a National Health Program aren't sold either:
Americans need more than affordable insurance; they need affordable health care. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to copy the Massachusetts reform in shrinking the numbers of uninsured people by forcing them to buy stripped down, bare-bones policies. With premiums for family coverage now averaging $10,000 a year, the only way that states can make premiums affordable is to strip down the plans, which then forces policyholders to pay out of pocket when they get sick. High deductibles, co-payments and benefit reductions are destroying the financial protection that insurance should provide. [...]I still prefer 100% universal health insurance over Romney's plan which leaves some people out.
The big winners in the Schwarzenegger and Massachusetts health plans are private health insurance firms. The new insurance mandates will hand them billions in wasteful administrative fees that do not occur in government insurance programs such as Medicare.
"Getting to 98 or 99 percent insured is about the best that anyone is going to be able to do," said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that sponsors research to improve healthcare.Getting 98 or 99 percent of the people insured isn't good enough for me. I'll withhold my vote for the candidate with a better idea, but at this point in time I can definitely say it won't be a Republican.