Some tough questions for the candidates

By on October 13, 2004

With the presidential election less than a month away, this is a good time to examine the issues that will be addressed, and each candidate’s stance. Below are three questions asked both Bush and Kerry in regard to social security, affordable health care, and prescription drug costs. Their responses are included as well.

Question: Do you support or oppose replacing part of Social Security with private individual accounts?

Answer: Bush supports replacing part of Social Security with private individual accounts, but will do so without changing benefits for retirees or near retirees, without raising payroll taxes and by adding voluntary personal savings accounts. Bush said, “These personal accounts will allow today’s workers to build a nest egg which could be passed along to their families, and according to Social Security actuaries, will strengthen the system permanently. I am committed to working with Congress to put Social Security on a sound footing for future generations.” Thus, Bush supports this statement but with certain conditions.

Kerry is opposed to privatizing or partially privatizing Social Security because “it would leave America’s seniors vulnerable to the whims of the financial markets and without a secure retirement.” The cost to privatize Social Security and pay promised benefits is at least $10 trillion, which will throw us into even worse deficits. Kerry said, “Instead of investing in an expensive and risky gamble that jeopardizes the livelihood of millions of Americans, I will invest in the long-term solvency of Social Security. One of the most important things we can do to strengthen Social Security is to grow the economy, create jobs, and increase revenues into the program.”

Question: In the face of escalating costs, how would you reform the health care system to make it available, affordable, and accessible to every American?

Answer: “I am committed to making affordable health care available to all Americans,” Bush said. He has proposed $70 billion in tax credits to help working Americans get coverage, he established health savings accounts that allow tax-free saving for routine medical expenses and future medical needs. “Coupled with high-deductible insurance, these plans provide flexible and affordable coverage for businesses and individuals. I proposed allowing small businesses to band together to purchase coverage for their workers,” Bush said. Furthermore, he signed legislation providing voluntary prescription drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries to help with the costs of their medicines. “I am fighting rising health costs by rooting out fraud and abuse, working to eliminate ‘junk lawsuits’ and promoting wider use of health information technology to improve quality, reduce errors, and cut administrative waste,” Bush said. Basically, Bush does not directly support or oppose providing employer incentives or expanding public programs. His stance depends on certain conditions and thus is unclear.

Kerry supports both providing employer incentives and expanding public programs. His plan covers 95% of Americans, achieved by having the federal government pick up part of the tab for certain high-cost health cases, allowing Americans’ family insurance premiums to decrease by as much as $1,000 annually. “My health care plan also lets people buy into the same health plan as Members of Congress, and it gives small businesses a tax credit to make coverage affordable,” Kerry said. Since seniors are the largest group of uninsured Americans, Kerry says to make coverage more affordable to them “I’ll provide a tax credit to buy into the Congressional Health Care Plan, which provides quality coverage, including prescription drug coverage,” he said.

Question: How would you propose to reduce drug costs and close the gap in coverage for all Medicare beneficiaries?

Answer: “For the first time, a voluntary prescription drug benefit will be offered in Medicare… The law protects employer-sponsored retiree coverage through new Federal subsidies. Immediate relief is available through the Medicare prescription drug cards… We have also made it easier to bring safe, effective, and affordable generic medicines to market, saving an estimated $35 billion over ten years,” Bush said.

Kerry supports closing the coverage gap, legalizing importation from Canada, and HHS secretary negotiations. “As president, I will enact legislation to allow for safe re-importation of FDA-approved medications, require the Secretary of HHS to negotiate for more affordable prescription drug prices, and end artificial barriers to generic drug competition… I will phase-out the costly gaps in coverage that seniors will face under the current Medicare prescription drug plan,” Kerry said. “As president, helping all seniors and eligible Americans with disabilities afford prescription drugs will be among my top priorities.”


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