CNN/YouTube debate poses no health-care questions

Despite the fact that most political polls describe health care as the No. 1 domestic issue, Wednesday’s CNN/YouTube debate for Republican presidential candidates did not contain  any mention of the topic.

What the candidates did talk about:

  • Illegal immigration
  • Abortion rights (or lack thereof, as it were)
  •  Gun control
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Imported toys containing lead
  • Crime and capital punishment
  • (And, of course) Iraq

Where to get coverage of the debate if you missed it:

What the bloggers are saying:

  • “When CNN airs a YouTube debate for Republican presidential hopefuls, you might think they’d select questions about the most important concerns Americans have,” wrote Buzz Flash blogger Joe Brewer. “After all, the questions were taken from everyday citizens with a video camera and access to the Web. But health care wasn’t mentioned.”
  • “I waited. And waited. And kept waiting,” wrote “nyceve” of the Daily Kos blog. But a single question about the plight of 47 million uninsured Americans, or the rest of us who have to wage an unending true holy war against the for-profit insurance industry, just didn’t make the CNN cut.”

Perhaps someone should have looked at the polls before selecting the questions. . .

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Specialized health-care interest groups gather steam

A feature in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune highlighted a presidential forum in which the more than 2,000 participants convened by cyclist Lance Armstrong assembled to hear the presidential candidates’ views on cancer.

Although this  forum occured in August, it is yet another of the many specialized health-care interest groups, along with insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, abortion, autism, HIV and AIDS, etc.

Jonny Imerman, an Illinois resident, was in the crowd at the Cedar Rapids, Iowa cancer forum. A survivor of testicular cancer, he wants additional resources for survivorship programs.

“The forum is a great way for [cancer] survivors to work together to create a collective voice for change,” Imerman said. “We can ask the candidates direct questions like, ‘What are you going to do about cancer? How are you going to help us find a cure?’ Survivors should be the ones to push the fight for the people who are sick.”

“Cancer advocates also want the federal government to sponsor more on scientific research”, according to the Tribune article.

At the Cedar Rapids forum, candidates were asked whether they would increase spending on cancer research. Most of those attending — Democrats Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich, and Republicans Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback (since withdrawn) — said they would, and several indicated they would double the current spending to $10 billion or more.

What next?

With so many interest groups vying for attention from the candidates, at least a few are bound to attract notice. My guess is that this election, unlike the failed attempts at health-care reform in the 90s, will bear some fruit for those needing expanded and more affordable health care.

Clinton unveils plan for autism

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) on Saturday unveiled a plan that would drastically increase funding and boost support services for families with an autistic loved one, according to a press release.

“Driven by their love and devotion to their children, mothers and fathers across the country have raised awareness, demanded funding, and opened our eyes to the needs of so many of our children living with autism,” Clinton said.

“It’s time we had a government and a president that recognized the seriousness of autism and addressed it head-on. It’s up to us to reclaim the future for our children, and ensure that every child can live up to his or her God-given potential.”

The plan:

Clinton will provide approximately $700 million a year to address autism through the following initiatives:

  •  Expanding research to identify causes of autism and monitoring its impact across the country
  • Creating an Autism Task Force charged with investigating evidence-based treatments, interventions, and services
  • Providing planning and demonstration grants for services for adults
  • Improving access to post-diagnosis care
  • Providing teacher training
  • Creating a National Technical Assistance Center
  • Guaranteeing quality, affordable health care

McCain wants to bring drugs from Canada in order to lower health-care costs

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Saturday that he wants to re-allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada as a way to lower health-care costs, according to a report by the Associated Press.

“Drug companies and the lobbyists they pay in Washington want to keep your drug prices high. Obviously, I want them to be affordable,” McCain said.

McCain also said that too much of the problem of expensive health care is based on expensive drug prices.

“If we are going to control health care cost, we need to control the rising costs of pharmaceuticals,” McCain said, adding that drug prices are 16 percent to 60 percent cheaper in Canada and are to blame for rising insurance premiums.

Details of McCain’s health-care plan: (see my post on McCain’s plan)

  • People need alternatives to doctors’ offices and hospitals, such as quick, inexpensive walk-in clinics, or using Web technology to allow doctors to practice across state lines
  • Hospitals must do a better job of taking care of us while we are there, and commit fewer deadly and costly medical errors
  • Pharmaceutical companies must worry less about squeezing more money out of old drugs by copying the last successful one, and concentrate more on innovative medicines
  • Insurance companies should spend more on health care and less on “administration”
  • Patients must only pay for quality
  • Veterans must receive better care
  • The billing system should be simplified – we should pay only one bill for quality health care, instead of a dizzying flurry of bills for pre-surgery visits, routine check-ups, lab work and prescriptions
  • Every provider of health care should be held accountable for its actions, and all medical transactions should be recorded in a transparent manner
  • Individuals and families should receive tax credits for having health insurance

So?

Well, if McCain is right (and, judging from my own prescription experiences, he is), his plan to bring pharmaceuticals back in from Canada (they originate here) is an excellent plan to lower costs. Additionally, McCain said he is open to bringing drugs in from other countries, such as Mexico, as well, provided that we have proper safety protocol in place. Consider that Medicare and Medicaid are just about bankrupt, and consider the reason why – there are many, but expensive drugs are up there – and perhaps you’ll agree.

Edwards threatens to withhold health care from Congress

In one of Sen. John Edwards‘s (D-NC) most recent television ads, the presidential candidate threatens to withhold health-care coverage from members of Congress if they do not pass a health-care reform plan by July 2009.

The text of the ad:

  • “When I’m president I’m going to say to members of Congress and members of my administration, including my cabinet: I’m glad that you have health care coverage and your family has health care coverage. But if you don’t pass universal health care by July of 2009 – in six months – I’m going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you. [Applause] There’s no excuse for politicians in Washington having health care when you don’t have health care. I’m John Edwards and I approve this message.”

According to blogger Corinne Ramey, whose site, “DMIBlog: Politics, policy and the American Dream” opined on the ad, Edwards would actually have that power if elected president.

Details of Edwards’s plan: (as explained by Ramey)

  • The plan calls for expanding both public and private insurance, and will require every American to have coverage. Universality would be “enforced” by checking insurance at schools, hospitals, clinics and other locations. Premiums could also be collected through the tax system, and people could be enrolled in a default plan if necessary.
  • Edwards plans to expand SCHIP and Medicaid to cover all adults under the poverty line and all families under 250% of the poverty line.
  • Employers will be forced to either provide health care for their employees or pay into an insurance fund.
  • Edwards will also regulate private insurers, forcing them to charge fair premiums regardless of preexisting condition like medical history, job type, or age.
  • “No longer will insurance companies be able to game the system to cover only healthy people,” his health care policy states.

The main difference between Edwards’s plan and other Dems:

  • “Heath Care Markets,” which are basically an experiment between private insurance companies and a public plan; individuals would be able to choose which works best for them and their familes
    • These Health Care Markets will reward the sector which provides the best care at the best price, and may eventually lead toward a single-payer system if that’s what families and businesses want.

Drastic, but it could work:

I think it sounds like a great way to get Congress to actually do something useful. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

What about health care for college students?

With the recent SCHIP hullabaloo and the presidential candidates focusing on uninsured children and adults, it seems like there must be someone being left out… oh, yeah! The millions of full-time college students around the country, who may no longer qualify for their parents’ insurance (if their parents are even covered).

One such student is fighting back.

In an editorial in Wednesday’s edition of The Daily Collegian, Pennsylvania State University’s student newspaper, editorialist Mark Myers decried a need for universal health care so that students like himself may be covered.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are without health insurance,” Myers writes, “[either] because their employers don’t offer it, they can’t afford it or they are unemployed. I belong to the ‘unemployed’ category as a full-time college student.”

Sure, most colleges (including Northwestern University, where this blogger is a graduate student) offer some type of health insurance, but it’s not free.

“It costs $1,107 annually for students to be insured by the university,” Myers writes. “That’s a formidable price for a student who needs the assistance to pay tuition.”

(And, I might add, it’s about half the price of my own student-health plan.)

Could I borrow more money to cover health insurance? Sure,” Myers states in his editorial. “But should I have to saddle myself with additional long-term debt for something that many others around the world enjoy without worry?

Now that I, who did have to borrow more money for health coverage, think about it, Myers is right. What about us?

NYT: Anxiety about health-care costs tops list of economic concerns for voters

With rising gas prices, a scary housing market and stagnating wages comes concern about the economy. But according to an article in Wednesday’s New York Times, anxiety about health-care costs is also contributing to fears about a slowing economy.

The article’s author, Janet Elder, makes an argument that perhaps health care should not be put into its own category in polls; she writes that it should be grouped with other economic concerns, such as the job market.

Elder quotes respondents from an October CBS News poll that were called back recently to discuss the health-care issue.

Michael Reid, 54, a computer data manager from Brooklyn, who says he is a Democrat, worries about health care. “At the present moment I have full health insurance coverage because I’m working,” Reid said, “but I have no idea what will happen when I retire.

“We should have some kind of major national health care, like in Canada or England,” he said. “I think health care is more important than Iraq.”