President Bush and Sen. John Kerry addressed numerous healthcare issues and exchanged attacks over the uninsured and each other's healthcare plans during their final debate before the Nov. 2 presidential election. Bush emphasized supporting integrated information technology, saying it would improve quality and wring 20% of costs from the healthcare system. He said Kerry's plan to significantly reduce the number of uninsured amounted to "government-run" healthcare with a "$1.2 trillion" cost. Kerry said Bush's claims were wrong and criticized the president for doing too little to help the uninsured, even as their numbers grew by 5.2 million during his administration. Kerry also vowed to send the Bush administration's Medicare prescription drug law back to Congress for a rewrite -- to give seniors a "real" benefit, he said, and allow the government to negotiate with drug companies over prices.
Brian Palmer, president of the American Medical Student Association, said from his point of view, neither candidate has provided a plan to make healthcare affordable for all Americans. Kerry's Web site says his plan would expand coverage to 95% of Americans and give all Americans access to the same "high-quality, affordable" plans available to members of Congress. Bush's plan, meanwhile, would help as many as 10 million of the nation's about 44 million uninsured, according to the Bush campaign's estimate, or as few as 2.4 million uninsured, according to Emory University researchers. "We heard two very different directions on healthcare last night but little acknowledgement of the reality of the healthcare crisis," said Palmer, who watched the debate. -- by Jeff Tieman