The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

Presidential Candidate’s Health Care Plans — For Now

Posted by Alan on November 16, 2007


While the effort to enact health care reform in California marches on — or grinds to a halt, depending on your point of view — I thought it was time to start looking more at the national debate. It’s especially timely because the caucuses are just around the corner and also because, as I wrote earlier this month, there’s a fair chance federal health care reform will wind up preempting whatever California comes up with before the state laws have a chance to kick in (which, depending on one’s point of view, could be a good thing).

The New York Times  recently published a helpful summary of the the presidential candidates’ health care reform positions of Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates (minor party candidates are not included). There’s a few trends that emerge:

  • Most of the major candidates, especially on the Democratic side, have offered plans with a respectable amount of specificity — offering at least enough details to provide opponents enough room to attack.
  • The Republican candidates tend to focus on tax incentives to encourage more Americans to obtain coverage and avoid new government programs or much expansion of existing ones.
  • Most of the Democratic candidates call for mandates on individuals and/or businesses to obtain coverage and fund their proposals, at least in part, by rolling back President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for Americans earning over $250,000. Governor Bill Richardson, pretty much alone among the Democrats with significant poll results in the early primary states, avoids the creation of new government bureaucracies.
  • Most significantly, none of the leading Democrats (“leading” meaning those with noticeable numbers in polls of voters in the first states to vote or caucus) are calling for a single-payer system. In fact, the only candidate advocating a government takeover of health care in America is Representative Dennis Kucinich, who, to date, is far from being a “leading” candidate. On the other hand, Governor Bill Richardson, who has reached double-digit numbers in some New Hampshire and Iowa polls, has a health care reform plan which avoids the creation of new government bureacracies altogether.

The New York Times summary provides a good snapshot of where the candidates stand as of Fall 2007. Keep in mind, however, they’ve got a long road ahead of them to the November 2008 general election. Their positions are likely to evolve over time as they think more about the underlying public policy, of course, but also in reaction to changing political realities. While the leading candidates are avoiding extreme positions at this stage, that could change if their core, and more extreme, constituencies prove potent in the early primaries. If one of their proposals begins to resonate with voters soon, it would not be surprising to see other candidates drift in that direction. Then, shortly after the nominating conventions, a gravitational force seems to emerge which pulls candidates toward the center.

So it’s worthwhile looking at where the presidential candidates stand on health care reform now. Just keep in mind, tomorrow is another day.

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