Two candidates who are near the bottom of their partys
ticketand one who has catapulted close to the topare hoping that their health reform platforms can be coupled with their broader beliefs as a way to bolster their campaigns.
In late October, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware announced his healthcare proposal, saying he would expand eligibility for several existing federal healthcare programs and introduce broader reforms in an effort to move toward universal coverage.
And though no official proposals have come from GOP candidates Fred Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee, and Rep. Thomas Tancredo from Colorado, spokesmen from both camps say that their bosses have at least an outline for reform.
Under the Biden plan, the State Childrens Health Insurance Programcurrently in flux in Congresswould be expanded to include families with incomes up to 300% of the current federal poverty level ($61,950 for a family of four based on 2007 guidelines) and to young adults up to age 21. The Delaware senators proposal also allows uninsured adults to buy into an insurance program that mirrors the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which offers a range of choices for government employees. And it calls for lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to include individuals age 55 to 64.
I know what it is like to be wheeled into an emergency room, unsure if youll see your family ever againand I was lucky because I had health insurance, Biden said last month during an Iowa campaign stop. Whether it is enough to boost Bidens campaign remains to be seen. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows the senator is a distant fifth among Democratic candidates.
Still, if any domestic topic is likely to sway voters, it is healthcare, said Ron Pollack, executive director for Families USA. Along with the Federation of American Hospitals, Families USA is sponsoring candidates forums on healthcare.
With Biden, much of what he said is reasonably close to what other candidates on the Democratic side have been saying, Pollack said.
But to be sure, there are differences. Bidens proposal would create a federal reinsurance pool of dollars to help reimburse employers and insurers up to 75% of catastrophic healthcare costs that exceed $50,000 per person. In order to participate in the rebate program, employers would have to cover all employees and apply best practices to chronic-disease management.
In the meantime, while Thompson hasnt made healthcare the main thrust of his campaign, the late arriving but top-tier Republican has articulated a health policy consistent with his conservative bent.
Every American should be able to get health insurance coverage that is affordable, fully accessible and portable, the former Tennessee senator writes on his campaign Web site. But Thompson rails against a one-size-fits-all Washington plan, which he said would only increase costs, add more obstacles and do little to improve quality.
Instead, Thompson said that he wants to design a healthcare system based on consumer choices, shifting the industry to reward cost-effective prevention, chronic-care management and personal responsibility.
Tancredo, whose singular issue leans more toward immigration policy rather than healthcare, nevertheless has drafted a reform platform that includes both. While illegal immigration isnt generally the first thing Americans think of when they think about healthcare, it has a significant impact on the cost, availability and quality of healthcare available to Americans, Tancredo writes on his Web site.
The Colorado conservative said that hospital emergency rooms often bear the fiscal brunt of treating uninsured illegal immigrants to the extent that Congress recently allocated $1 billion in taxpayer money to help defray those costs.
Tancredo also champions medical malpractice reforms and association health plans, which allows small business owners to group together through professional associations to buy health insurance at a negotiated rate.