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John Edwards on Health Care

Democratic Nominee for Vice President; NC Jr Senator


Double the funding to fight the global AIDS epidemic

The $15 billion for AIDS needs to be doubled. Here at home we need to do much more. Cheney spoke about doing research, making sure we have the drugs available, making sure that we do everything possible to have prevention. But it's a bigger question than that. If kids and adults don't have access to preventative care, the possibility of not only developing AIDS and having a life-threatening problem, but the problem of developing other life-threatening diseases is there every day of their lives.
Source: Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Support allowing prescription drugs into the US from Canada

CHENEY: The most important and significant change in health care in the last several years was the Medicare reform bill this year. Medicare used to pay for heart bypass surgery but didn't pay for the prescription drugs that might allow you to avoid it. It'll provide prescription drug benefits to 40 million senior citizens.

EDWARDS: They had a choice on allowing prescription drugs into this country from Canada, of being with the American people or with the drug companies. They were with the drug companies. They had a choice on negotiating discounts in the Medicare prescription drug bill of being with the American people or with the drug companies. They were with the drug companies. They had a choice on the patients' bill of rights, allowing people to make their own health care decisions and not having insurance companies make them, be with the American people, be with the big insurance companies. They're with the insurance companies.

Source: [Xref Cheney] Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Bush has no plan to address the health care crisis

Rising health care costs have forced businesses to slow hiring and shift jobs to part-time and temporary workers, many of whom lack health insurance. Yet Bush has no plan to address any of these challenges. The few proposals he has offered would actually make the health care crisis worse by further dividing the system between one that is affordable for the healthy and wealthy, and one that is unaffordable for the elderly, the sick, and increasingly, for America's broad middle class.
Source: [X-ref Kerry] Our Plan For America , p. 99 Aug 10, 2004

It is morally wrong to leave so many Americans uninsured

It is morally wrong to tolerate an America with so many uninsured and underinsured Americans. Working Americans who do not have health insurance live in the neighborhoods we call home. We see them every day behind the counter and around the corner. They build America's houses, run our small businesses, bag our groceries, and care for our elderly and our kids. And some American families, more than others, tend to fall through the cracks of our health care coverage system.
Source: [X-ref Kerry] Our Plan For America , p.101 Aug 10, 2004

Start providing health insurance for every child in America

Our plan starts by providing health insurance for every child in America. Under the Kerry-Edwards plan, the federal government will pay the full costs for the 20 million children in the Medicaid program. In return, we will ask states to expand coverage to children in families with higher incomes than are currently eligible, as well as low-income adults. It will expand coverage to millions of people & provide much needed relief for states that are struggling under persistent growing budgetary pressures.
Source: [X-ref Kerry] Our Plan For America , p.103 Aug 10, 2004

Provide a bonus for states to get children insured

Kids will be signed up automatically at hospitals, community health centers, and schools. And $5 billion in enrollment bonuses will be available to states as an incentive to find uninsured children and keep them covered. Children do not choose their parents and whether to have health insurance. Children deserve a good start - with both high quality education and health care. Under our plan, every child in America will have health insurance, and every parent will have a little more peace of mind.
Source: [X-ref Kerry] Our Plan For America , p.103 Aug 10, 2004

More help to those who fall through the cracks of the system

We will provide additional help for those who need the most help: Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 years old often have the hardest time finding an affordable health plan. Our plan provides millions of low and moderate income Americans in this age group with a 25% tax credit to help pay the cost of their premiums. Americans who are between jobs often cannot afford health insurance. Our plan helps low and moderate income Americans between jobs by offering them a 75% tax credit to help pay for their premiums. Small business employees are far less likely to have health insurance than employees of large business because health insurers tend to charge small businesses higher premiums for the same coverage. We will offer small businesses a tax credit that covers up to 50% of their premium contribution for low-to-moderate income employees, Finally, low-to-moderate income individuals will get a tax credit to help pay the cost of participating in the Congressional Health Plan.
Source: [X-ref Kerry] Our Plan For America , p.104 Aug 10, 2004

Provide a real patients' bill of rights

We can build one America where we no longer have two health care systems: one for families who get the best health care money can by, then one for everybody else rationed out by drug companies & HMOs. Millions of Americans have no health coverage at all. It doesn't have to be that way. We have a plan that will offer all Americans the same health care that your senator has. And when we're in office, we will sign a real patients' bill of rights into law so that you can make your own health care decisions.
Source: Acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Jul 28, 2004

Cover every child and vulnerable adults

I support a health care plan that would cover every child and millions of vulnerable adults, and also bring down health costs for all Americans. I support a strong Patients Bill of Rights, prescription drug benefit in Medicare, and stem cell research.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

Health care should be viewed in larger context of poverty

Q: Edwards has been saying your health care plan is too expensive. Is his plan ambitious enough?

KERRY: No. My program is more ambitious, because what I would roll back Bush's tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, and create a federal fund that takes all the catastrophic cases in America out of the private system, which means, effectively, every individual in every business in America will be capped at $50,000 of risk. That will provide each American who has health care today with a $1,000 minimum reduction in their premium.

Q: Sen. Edwards, that is one of the major differences between your plan. Is that idea affordable?

EDWARDS: The issue becomes whether you believe health care is an isolated problem. For those in poverty and the struggling middle class, if one thing goes wrong-if they have a health care problem-they go right off the cliff. I mandate health care for all kids and cover the most vulnerable adults. But we also have to find ways to not only lift these families out of poverty.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

A new system to prevent malpractice insurance hikes

Q: Shouldn't there be some kind of new system so that physicians can afford malpractice insurance?

A: What we should do is put a system in place to keep cases that don't belong in the system out of the system. Require the lawyers to have these cases investigated and reviewed by independent experts to determine that they're serious and that they're meritorious. Require the lawyer to certify that before the case can even be brought into the legal system. And hold the lawyer accountable.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary Debate in Greenville SC Jan 29, 2004

Bush's Rx plan helps HMOs-help seniors instead

Q: How, if at all, would you change the new prescription drug benefit for the elderly?

A: When I am president, we will write a prescription drug bill for the American people -- a law that benefits seniors not the HMOs and insurance companies. We will bring drug costs down by allowing reimportation, stopping wasteful and misleading drug advertising, and using the government's purchasing power. And we will give seniors a better, more secure drug benefit.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, "Medicare" Jan 25, 2004

Cap on damages for personal injuries is discriminatory

Q: What do you think about the cap on damages for personal injuries?

A: Bush is proposing about this and what happens in our courtrooms shows his philosophy about everything. He doesn't believe in democracy. He hates the idea that his friends and his supporters are going to walk into a courtroom and be treated exactly the same way as a child or a family who have been the victims of fraud or abuse. The victim have been disabled for life, I mean, this could not be more discriminatory than it is.

Source: Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum Jan 11, 2004

Med-mal cases are about accountability for honest mistakes

[In my first medical malpractice case, I asked for $1.5 million. None of the counsels in our law firm had] ever handled a medical malpractice case before. Back in 1984, juries in a conservative region could scarcely fathom ruling against a doctor or any hospital in a civil proceeding. A car manufacturer, a restaurant, even a police force might be held responsible for damages if its negligence had caused injury to someone. But the notion that a doctor could be liable for causing a patient lasting harm was difficult to square with the public's view of a physician as a benevolent and all-knowing lifesaver.

But physicians err like the rest of us, and when, through neglect or reckless behavior, they cause damage, they must be held accountable for the consequences of their action or inaction. My challenge would be to shatter the jurors' prejudice in favor of a good but mistaken doctor and against an alcoholic client and to allow them to see the facts for what they were. [Edwards won the case].

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p. 22 Dec 1, 2003

Campbell verdict empowered nurses & informed consent

[In the Campbell case. Edwards won a $4 million judgement that hospitals were responsible for ensuring that nurses could override doctor's mistakes.] The Campbell verdict set in motion a wave of reforms throughout the North Carolina medical community. Almost overnight, hospital board members ratified procedures through which personnel could go up a chain of command to protect a patient's welfare. Hospital nurses later reported to us that they were empowered by the reforms. Hospitals would be stronger now, and safer. On the legal front, Jennifer Campbell v. Pitt County Memorial Hospital made case law on the issue of informed consent: a hospital could now be held liable if it failed to ascertain whether a patient understood the various risks associated with a medical procedure.

After the headlines stopped, I could take some satisfaction in the changes I saw happening. But in the end, this was always a case about one family, about a six-year-old girl and her parents, good working people.

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p.113 Dec 1, 2003

Children First: insure every child, by law

I start with a very simple idea: children first. I will make sure that every child is covered, and I'll do it the only way you can, by making it the law of the land. I'm going to ask responsibility from everybody. Responsibility for the parents make sure their kids are covered. Responsibility from the government to make sure that they can pay for it. And responsibility from big HMOs and drug companies, to bring the cost down. And if they won't accept responsibility, we will hold them responsible.
Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico Sep 4, 2003

Cover 3m Hispanic kids & have National Translation Center

My healthcare plan will cover 3 million Hispanic children. I'd double the investment in public health facilities, the safety net that takes all comers to get the health care they need. And , to deal with the language disparities that Hispanic families face every day, we should set up a national translation center, open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, so that we don't have children of Hispanic adults translating to doctors about the problems that their parents are facing.
Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico Sep 4, 2003

Require health insurance for every child

Health Care for Every Child. Edwards proposes that for the first time in history, America should require health insurance for every child, with tax credits to help families with rising premiums. He will take on insurance companies, drug companies, and HMOs to bring down health care costs for every American.
Source: Real Solutions For America, campaign booklet by John Edwards Aug 6, 2003

Bush works for big HMOs and big pharma; I stand up for you

We have to do something about the cost of health care in America, and in order to do it, we're going to have to overcome this culture in Washington that pushes against taking on big insurance companies, big HMOs, big pharmaceutical companies.

I have done it. I have fought them all of my life. It is what I have done since I've been in the US Senate. I have offered legislation to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for every single American.

The only reason that the efforts we have made in the Congress to bring down the cost of health care in America are not the law of the land, is because the president works for those people, and we have got to put somebody in the White House who will stand up for you, will stand up against them, and will fight that culture in Washington, that prevents taking them on.

Source: AFSCME union debate in Iowa May 17, 2003

Health care crisis requires fighting big corporations

No one's talking about cost [of health care to people]. We can't deal with the health care crisis in America unless we have the backbone and courage to do what I have been doing my entire life: fighting against big corporations, pharmaceutical companies, big insurance companies, big HMOs. The president works for those people. There's a culture in Washington that stands against taking them on.
Source: Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

Gephardt's plan gives working people's money to corporations

Q: In April, Gephardt put out a plan to cover 97% of Americans. He doubles the tax deduction to employers, and pays for it by repealing almost all of the Bush tax cut.

EDWARDS: All of us are for universal health care. What I differ with is taking almost $1 trillion out of the pocket of working families making $30-$40,000 a year, giving it to the biggest corporations in America who are already providing health insurance, and not insuring another additional American. That's taking money that people desperately need, giving it to the very people that we've had trouble with. It feels like saying, `You're in good hands with Enron.'

GEPHARDT: He's wrong on my plan. People get their health insurance from corporations. My plan requires every company who gets the 60% credit to pass it along to their employees and to offer their employees plans. This is not helping the corporations, this is helping corporations give people the thing they most need, which is health insurance.

Source: [X-ref from Gephardt] Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

Voted NO on $40 billion per year for limited Medicare prescription drug benefit.

S. 1 As Amended; Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003. Vote to pass a bill that would authorize $400 billion over 10 years to create a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients beginning in 2006. Seniors would be allowed to remain within the traditional fee-for-service program or seniors would have the option to switch to a Medicare Advantage program that includes prescription drug coverage. Private insurers would provide prescription drug coverage. Private Insurers would engage in competitive bidding to be awarded two-year regional contracts by the Center for Medicare Choices under the Department of Health and Human Services.Enrolled seniors would pay a $275 deductible and an average monthly premium of $35. Annual drug costs beyond the deductible and up to $4,500 would be divided equally between the beneficiary and the insurer. Beneficiaries with incomes below 160 percent of the poverty level would be eligible for added assistance.
Reference: Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit bill; Bill S.1/H.R.1 ; vote number 2003-262 on Jun 26, 2003

Voted YES on allowing importation of Rx drugs from Canada.

S. 812, as amended; Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act of 2002. Vote to pass a bill that would permit a single 30-month stay against Food and Drug Administration approval of a generic drug patent when a brand-name company's patent is challenged. The secretary of Health and Human Services would be authorized to announce regulations allowing pharmacists and wholesalers to import prescription drugs from Canada into the United States. Canadian pharmacies and wholesalers that provide drugs for importation would be required to register with Health and Human Services. Individuals would be allowed to import prescription drugs from Canada. The medication would have to be for an individual use and a supply of less than 90-days.
Bill S.812 ; vote number 2002-201 on Jul 31, 2002

Voted YES on allowing patients to sue HMOs & collect punitive damages.

Vote to provide federal protections, such as access to specialty and emergency room care, and allow patients to sue health insurers in state and federal courts. Economic damages would not be capped, and punitive damages would be capped at $5 million.
Bill S1052 ; vote number 2001-220 on Jun 29, 2001

Voted NO on funding GOP version of Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Vote to pass an amendment that would make up to $300 billion available for a Medicare prescription drug benefit for 2002 through 2011. The money would come from the budget's contingency fund. The amendment would also require a Medicare overhaul.
Bill H Con Res 83 ; vote number 2001-65 on Apr 3, 2001

Voted YES on including prescription drugs under Medicare.

Vote to establish a prescription drug benefit program through the Medicare health insurance program. Among other provisions, Medicare would contribute at least 50% of the cost of prescription drugs and beneficiaries would pay a $250 deductible
Bill HR.4690 ; vote number 2000-144 on Jun 22, 2000

Voted NO on limiting self-employment health deduction.

The Santorum (R-PA) amdt would effectively kill the Kennedy Amdt (D-MA) which would have allowed self-employed individuals to fully deduct the cost of their health insurance on their federal taxes.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)53; N)47
Reference: Santorum Amdt #1234; Bill S. 1344 ; vote number 1999-202 on Jul 13, 1999

Let states make bulk Rx purchases, and other innovations.

Edwards signed a letter from 30 Senators to the Secretary of HHS

To: The Honorable Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary, Department of Health & Human Services

Dear Secretary Thompson:

As you know, prescription drug costs have been surging at double-digit rates for the last six years. The average annual increase 1999 through 2003 was a massive 16%, seven times the rate of general inflation.

These increases fall hardest on senior citizens and the uninsured. Their health needs are often great, and their low incomes often make these products unaffordable. They have no ability to use their combined purchasing power to negotiate reasonable prices. Taxpayers pay tens of billions of dollars for the purchase of drugs by Medicaid—an expense that could be reduced significantly if states are permitted to negotiate for the best prices from drug manufacturers.

As you know, the Supreme Court has just ruled that Maine's innovative program to reduce prescription drug costs for the uninsured and senior citizens is not a violation of the Medicaid law. As a result of this decision, Maine can use the combined buying power of Medicaid and individuals purchasing drugs on their own to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers. Twenty-nine other states supported the position taken by Maine, and there is broad interest in many states in initiating similar programs.

The Supreme Court's ruling, however, left open the possibility that if the Department of Health and Human Services makes a finding that the Maine program violates the Medicaid statute, the Department's action would be upheld by the Court. We urge you not to intervene to block Maine's program or similar statutes in other states that achieve savings for taxpayers, the elderly, and the uninsured. Such programs must be carefully implemented to assure that the poor are not denied access to needed drugs, but there is no justification for the federal government to deny states the ability to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of their neediest citizens.

Source: Letter from 30 Senators to the Secretary of HHS 03-SEN6 on May 20, 2003

Rated 100% by APHA, indicating a pro-public health record.

Edwards scores 100% by APHA on health issues

The American Public Health Association (APHA) is the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world, representing more than 50,000 members from over 50 occupations of public health. APHA is concerned with a broad set of issues affecting personal and environmental health, including federal and state funding for health programs, pollution control, programs and policies related to chronic and infectious diseases, a smoke-free society, and professional education in public health.

The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: APHA website 03n-APHA on Dec 31, 2003

End government propaganda on Medicare bill.

Edwards signed a letter from 6 Senators to Directors of Television Networks

Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through a public relations firm, distributed Video News Releases (VNRs) to numerous local television news stations across the country. These VNRs contain pre-scripted news story packages and B-Roll designed to influence local news station to run stories complimentary of the new Medicare law recently signed by President Bush. However, these VNRs may mislead many news stations because they do not identify that they are produced by the government. In addition, these materials are currently being evaluated to determine whether they are illegal "covert propaganda."

We urge you to immediately warn stations not to use these materials and pull any stories that use them.

These tapes can be identified as follows: Two English-language versions begin with B-Roll of video slides promoting the new Medicare law, followed by interview soundbites from Tommy Thompson, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Leslie Norwalk, Acting Deputy Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Following these soundbites, a complete television news package is run, with a voice-over by a fictional reporter named "Karen Ryan." Following the news package, more B-Roll is provided, including scenes of President Bush's rally at the signing of the bill, scenes from a pharmacy and scenes of seniors playing table games.

It is critical to the credibility of an independent news media that covert government propaganda be rejected for use by news organizations. We also believe that honest government should not resort to such deceptive tactics, and it is our belief that these materials violate the above-mentioned Federal law. Thank you for your cooperation with this request.

Source: Letter from 6 Senators to Directors of Television Networks 04-SEN3 on Mar 15, 2004

Other candidates on Health Care: John Edwards on other issues:
George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
John Edwards
John Kerry

Third Party Candidates:
Michael Baradnik
Peter Camejo
David Cobb
Ralph Nader
Michael Peroutka

Democratic Primaries:
Carol Moseley Braun
Wesley Clark
Howard Dean
Dick Gephardt
Bob Graham
Dennis Kucinich
Joe Lieberman
Al Sharpton
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Adv: Avi Green for State Rep Middlesex 26, Somerville & Cambridge Massachusetts