Welcome to Modern Healthcares Guide to Healthcare in the 2008 Presidential Campaign. With little doubt, healthcare reform has emerged as the top domestic issue in the race to the White House. In some polls, such as the one released earlier this month by the American Hospital Association, healthcare reform actually tops the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and the war on terrorism as the most important issue for voters in early primary states.
Were off to the races
With healthcare in pole position, our guide leads way
The candidates themselves are deeply divided on how best to solve the chronic access, cost and quality problems confronting the healthcare industry. Some are even divided on the extent of those problems. Their solutions range from a government-controlled single-payer system to incremental expansions of current government programs to increased individual responsibility for personal health and insurance coverage. Each solution, in turn, will affect each segment of the industryhospitals, physicians, ambulatory surgery centers, post-acute providers, insurers, business, pharmaceutical companies and other suppliers and vendorsdifferently. Consequently, each segment has a huge stake in the outcome.
Thats where we come in. Our three-pronged editorial mission is to inform, educate and entertain our readers. Some readers may find this special theme, regular edition of Modern Healthcare informative; others may find it entertaining. But we hope all of our readers will find it educational. We want to school readers on the candidates healthcare reform platforms and on how those platforms will affect their healthcare organizations and corporations. The goal is to assist readers in making an informed decision when they vote in the upcoming caucuses and primaries.
But rather than summarizing each candidates reform proposal and interviewing dozens of experts about how those proposals would affect various segments of the healthcare industry, which would be the CliffsNotes approach, weve taken a different tact. The guide lays out a series of lessons for our readers to follow. We want our readers to figure out for themselves how each of the candidates reform proposals would affect them.
One big clue to figuring out how individual candidates and their healthcare reform plans will affect readers is money. The opening section of the guide looks at where major healthcare lobbies are puttingor not puttingtheir cash and to whom individual healthcare executives, leaders and other luminaries are contributing their funds. Whom did HCAs Jack Bovender Jr. give to? Or United Healthcares Robert Sheehy? Or Banner Healths Peter Fine? Its all public, and its all in this issue. Do you think they would give to a candidate whose platform would put them or the operations they run out of business?
Another clue, although some would say less reliable than money, are the candidates themselves. We persistently asked every major declared candidate in both parties to write guest commentaries on their healthcare reform plans. This guide includes commentaries from 12 of the 15 candidates from whom we solicited first-hand accounts on how they would alter the healthcare landscape from the Oval Office. They appear in alphabetical order. U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) did not submit commentaries by our deadline. We hope to add their commentaries to our Candidates Forum section on Modern Healthcare Online at modern healthcare.com after this guide is published.
We know what the lobbies are doing. We know where the insiders are putting their money. We know what the candidates are selling. What do our readers think? To gauge their voting preferences, we conducted a straw poll on Modern Healthcare Online. From Sept. 10 through Oct. 19, registered users could take our presidential straw poll. More than 6,200 readers did. Of those, nearly 96% said they work or have worked in some sector of the healthcare industry. Some 38% described themselves as Republican; 33% as Democratic; and 26% as independent. Who would they vote for? Youll have to turn to p. 28 to find out.
If youd like to learn more about what our readers think of the candidates various healthcare reform platforms, please visit the Candidates Forum section on Modern Healthcare Online. There youll find a reader blog on the candidates and their plans. We encourage all readers to participate in the debate and share their views.
To complete our guide, we looked to the left, to the right and to the middle for their views on what should be done with the countrys healthcare delivery system. The Ayn Rand Institute and the Physicians for a National Health Program provide an interesting glimpse at the healthcare system of the future if they ran the world. James Mongan, president and chief executive officer of the Partners HealthCare System and chairman of the Commission on a High Performance Health System, tells the next president what it will take to fix healthcare. And AHA President Richard Umbdenstock recommends questions that every healthcare executive should ask the candidates.
Like all special projects, this theme issue would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts of a few key people. Topping that list is Todd Sloane, assistant managing editor/op-ed. Sloane, who readers know well through his editorials in Modern Healthcare, is our resident healthcare policy expert and political junkie. His persistence in pursuing commentaries from all the leading presidential candidates was the energy driving this project. We thank him for his contribution.
Also on the short list as always is David May, assistant managing editor/features. May designed the reader straw poll, tabulated the votes and analyzed the results for our readers along with comparing our readers views with those from other major public opinion polls. We thank him for his contribution.
The next president will leave a lasting impression on the healthcare system over the next decade. Will the system continue its move toward individual responsibility for health and insurance? Will it start leaning back toward new and expanded government healthcare programs? Or will it continue to bounce between the two, never careening too far in any one direction from which it could never come back? The next president will have a large say in what happens, and our readers will have a large say in who that president is.
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