HEALTH CARE 2008 Presidential Forum

Note (2:15 P.M.): I sat in the bleachers on the floor where the candidates spoke, so I had a few tech issues, which now should be corrected below. It’s quite different in the media feed room, because you don’t get the sense of the people, as well as get to talk to them, which is what I think helps report not only what’s happening, but the reality of how voters are receiving the candidates’ messages. It’s not often that journalists/media can get in the same room where candidates are speaking. By the way, Think Progess/SEIU/CAP did a great job today. Jonathan Singer was covering the event too, but he chose the media feed room. Safe bet, because he didn’t have my wireless issues and didn’t have to type on his lap. But I still feel being in the room with the candidates is incredibly valuable, especially for bloggers. I’ll have a follow up post a bit later on “who won” the forum, as far as I’m concerned. It wasn’t even close.

Elizabeth Edwards is in the house and she looks great. The throng of media
trying to get her picture is deep. (My choice was to get a picture or cover
what Edwards was saying.) John Edwards started the forum, because he was the
first one to accept the invitation by AmProgress/SEIU.

Tumulty’s first question dealth with Elizabeth’s health and his ability to
“manage both of those,” meaning his campaign. “Will you be in
this race for the duration?” That’s the first question Tumulty asked? “We
know what it’s like to function in very difficult situation.” We take our
responsibililty to this country seriously. “We want to serve, both of us.”
Then Edwards said that they’re “getting too much credit,” turning
the focus to other women who aren’t getting the coverage Elizabeth is getting.
He wants every woman and every person to get this kind of coverage. “We
don’t have to worry about that; we can focus on what needs to be done with our
family, with our country.” Other women don’t have our luxuries, was the
bottom line.

Edwards will roll back the Bush tax cuts to pay for his health care plan, which
will make it mandatory for every person to be covered. Competiveness and small
business is a big problem where health care is concerned. Individuals and small
businesses are helped in the Edwards plan by instituting market power and competition
through competitive plans, use of technology, “mandatory preventative care.”
Subsidizing health care for low and middle income families. Universal health
care must also include “efficiencies.” Can you do it without tax increases?
Edwards: “No.” You can’t have universal health care without another
source of revenue. We must find another source of revenue to pay for it. “It’s
very important for the president of the United States to be honest with the
American people… and that honesty starts right here in the campaign.”
This is especially true, said Edwards, considering what’s happened in the last
few years. (I’ve heard him say it before, in Carson City, as well.) … …
On nursing, “We have a huge nursing crisis in nursing.” Regulate staffing
of nurses so there isn’t so much burn out.

Impression of Edwards: He was incredibly comfortable, which is always the case.
Articulate — is that okay to say about someone these days — on the issue,
which he seems to know about in depth. His reception was strong. Standing ovation
when he left.

Richardson was next and his first words were about Elizabeth Edwards. He talked
about prevention, smoking bans, getting rid of junk food in schools, as well
as getting out of Iraq to help pay for universal health care. His reception
was cool compared to Edwards. The substance of his opening remarks was very
good. Tumulty asked him what he thought of Arnold’s plan to cover illegal immigrants. He talked about border security, but then slammed “the stupid wall.” Amen. Another question was about the Congress’s health care plan: why can’t all Americans get into it. I agree, said Richardson.

… the wi-fi connection is good, but hard to connect as I sit in the bleachers. Stay tuned…

Wanted to add on Richardson… He talked about a “Heroes” health card. He also took a swipe at Edwards’s idea that we need to find another revenue source. Richardson doesn’t think that’s necessary and that taxes do not need to be touched. He also addressed meth and addiction, as well as mental health. One note I will add, he looked stiff, though as media I’m usually relegated to a media feed room. I don’t know if that was because of the staging levels or maybe his cowboy boots. I understand the styling, but I just can’t warm to a business suit with cowboy boots. Doesn’t work for me.

Barack Obama came out and was greeted with shouts and a few squeals. He will have a health care plan in 2 months. His first question was from someone in the audience who went to his website, but couldn’t find any info. Obama said his campaign is only weeks old, but he’ll have something out soon. His presence and speaking quality is truly phenomenal. “How we spend our money” on health is important, bringing in the topic of generics. Tumulty asked about his sense of “coverage,” since he doesn’t have a plan out yet. Employer based health care system or what? Obama has a plan that will start with a series of round table discussions on health care. Some system has to be so that people can buy into a larger pool. He wants those who can’t go through their employer to be able to go through a federal or state system. He talked about a “more portable system.” Individuals need to be able to buy out of their employers’ coverage. Employers will have to pay or play to help pay for others. Preventative was mentioned as well, but everything is very general. What about minorities and the disparities for them? Obama: if everyone has health insurance the disparities go down. Some in the health care system don’t have health care, said Obama. That brought applause. … As for costs, Obama said there needs to be money put in “on the front end.” Efficiences will bring a lot of money out of the system currently being wasted. He hasn’t made a decision on certain aspects of the revenue model that will make his system work. “Several extra billion dollars” on the front end will be saved on the back end, especially for families. … He also addressed the nurse to patient ratio, which is always a winner with SEIU audiences.

Hillary got a great welcome. She looks fantastic. She began by sending her best to John and Elizabeth Edwards. “I feel like this is deja vu all over again. … I am proud we tried. People are now saying, boy, I wish we would have done that back then. … I meet nurses every day that tell me they’re thinkin’ of quitting” because of the patient to nurse ratio. She mentioned unions and her local NY unions as well. She knows her audience. Bring in the 47 million uninsured; help the people who already have insurance and end “insurance discrimination”; “make better use of the money already in the system” and improve quality and control costs.” She continued to make good jokes about her health care venture in the 1990s. We need more than candidates, “we need a movement” and for people to make this the “#1 issue in the ’08 election.” Cheers went up. Tumulty asked her to have a seat. “No, I’ll stand.” The people applauded. Taking money away from the people already doing well? Who’s that, asked Tumulty? “Let’s start with the insurance companies.” She continues… and she’s kicking butt and taking names, let me tell you. The people are 100% with her. The effection is real and so is the response. This is a remarkable political performance. … …

Continuing with Hillary… Diabetes isn’t covered in some instances, but the insurance companies will pay if you need your foot amputated. No more companies that don’t insure people. All employers will have to provide coverage or pay into a pool with others. No more companies letting other companies who cover health care cover their lack of involvement. “I vaguely remember being young.” Individuals have to be responsible and if your employer doesn’t provide it you’ll have to be “in the system.” We need to look at how we provide an alternative for biz who don’t provide it. Medicare has the lowest admin. cost of any plan. Federal Employeees Health Benefit Plan is a big pool or sharing arrangement. As an aside, Tumulty is now sitting behind Hillary as the senator talks straight to the people, pretty much ignoring Tuulty. It’s refreshing. WE are drowning in paper. We can save $100 billion a year if we move to electronic methods. “I’m willing to put in up front money” to make the change. She made very good points on people not knowing what they were taking: “pink pills” and “blue pills.” $200 million dollars for electronic medical records. It’s not just what the government spends, but what all of us spend. We must emphasiz wellness and prevention, including people taking better care of ourselves. We can’t afford all the illnesses people are thrusting on themselves. “We have to fix the system.” “This administration doesn’t exactly have the best record on competence.” Don’t just vote for a Democratic president, but we’re going to need a Democratic Congress. … It takes 60 votes. … “I want some more Democrats in the Senate.” We can’t get republicans to vote with us to end the war in Iraq.

Next came Senator Chris Dodd, who is passionate on the issue of health care, especially when he talks about his kids. Being a past middle age father, Dodd uses a joke on the campaign trail that talks about how he’s the only candidate to get mail from a diaper service and AARP. It’s better in person, because translation doesn’t quite do it justice. Dodd was on point and detailed and it’s clear being a second tier candidate does not discourage him.

Sorry for all you Kucinich fans. I didn’t stay for his segment. This time I was doing reporting of the event on my own, so I chose what to cover; that being the top tier candiates. Anyone wanting to spend money of a “peace department” isn’t top tier. It’s not that peace isn’t important, but let’s talk diplomacy instead, shall we? Peace is too Vietnam for me.

I’m going to have another post on who won the smarts and presidential preparedness test. The results will likely surprise you.