The Democrats on health care.

The Democrats on health care.

The Democrats on health care.

The inner workings of Slate.
Sept. 7 2007 10:22 AM

The Great Presidential Mashup

The Democrats on health care.

On September 12, Slate, Yahoo! and the Huffington Post will host the first-ever online-only presidential candidate mashup. Armed with your questions, Charlie Rose is asking the top Democratic presidential candidates about their views on health care, Iraq, education, and other issues. Their video responses will be coded and put at your disposalempowering you to create your own custom candidate forum. Want to hear every candidate's position on the war? Hillary's positions on every issue? Obama's views on health care? Our mashup will allow you to do all of the above.

But before we get there, there's homework to do. What have the candidates said on the issues so far? Are they changing their stories? Our cheat sheet on the previous debates will help you be the judge. Here we're offering background information on health care, one of the three issues selected by readers for the Slate/Yahoo!/Huffington Postcandidate mashup. Read the candidates' stances below.

Sen. Joe Biden

Sen. Joe Biden

AFL-CIO Debate, Aug. 7, 2007

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We need not 100,000 new cops, but 100,000 new nurses that we fund in order to make things better.

We have to be in a position where we don't let the enemy become theexcuse me, the perfect become the enemy of the good. In the first year, I'd insure every single, solitary child in America and make sure catastrophic insurance exists, and for every single person in America, while we move toward a national health-care system covering anybody.

Sen. Hillary Clinton

Sen. Hillary Clinton

South Carolina Debate, April 26, 2007

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I tried to achieve universal health care back in '93 or '94, and I still have the scars from that experience. You know, I take it as a perverse form of flattery, actually, that if [Republicans] weren't worried, they would not be so vitriolic in their criticism of me. … I believe that the country is ready for change. I believe America is ready now for universal health care.

All of the ideas that you're going to hear about in this campaign are very important to get out to the public so that people can actually think about them, examine how they would affect their lives because I do have the experience of having put forth a plan, with many of the features that John and Barack just mentioned. And people were enthusiastic about it initially, but then after the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies got finished working on it, everybody got nervous and so politically we were not successful.

Well, I'm ready to try again, and there's three things we've got to do. We've got to control and decrease costs for everyone. This is not just about the uninsured. Yes, we have nearly 47 million, but we've got many millions more who have an insurance policy that they can barely afford and that they can't get the treatments they need under it. We have to cover everybody, but we've got to improve quality. We can save money within the existing system. I am not ready to put new money into a system that doesn't work until we've tried to figure out how to get the best outcomes from the money we already have.

CNN/ YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

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The fact that this is happening in a country as rich as ours is just a national disgrace. And, yes, I did try in '93 and '94, and I like to say I have the scars to show for it, but I learned a lot about what we have to do. And having a plan, yes, that's part of it. But more important, we have to have a sense of national commitment that universal health care is an American value. We have to quit being told the special interests, like the insurance companies and the drug companies, that, somehow, we can't do what most other developed countries do, which is cover everybody and provide decency and respect to every single person in this country with health care.

New Hampshire Debate, June 3, 2007

Well, I'm thrilled that universal health care is back on the national agenda. You know, as we remember, back in '93 and '94 we tried to come forward with a plan. We weren't successful. I have the scars to show for that experience. But I am convinced that now when the Democrats all are coming forward saying, "This has to be a national goal," we then can try to get the political will.

The most important thing is not the plan. Because there are only a few ways to do this. And we're all talking pretty much about the same things. From my perspective, we have to lower cost, improve quality, and cover everybody.

What's important, and what I learned in the previous effort, is you've got to have the political will–a broad coalition of business and labor, doctors, nurses, hospitals–everybody standing firm when the inevitable attacks come from the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies that don't want to change the system because they make so much money out of it.

I have put forth approximately $120 billion in savings from health-care changes that can come; everything from electronic medical records to better management of chronic care. That is about in the ballpark of what all of us believe it will cost to cover everyone.

The challenge that I'm wrestling with is: How do we realize the savings? Now, I don't think there's any Democrat that is not going to let the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans expire. We're all going to do that. So, that money will be available. How, then, do we set forth the priorities that we want to address, including energy efficiency, dealing with global climate change, and so much else?

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AFL-CIO Debate, Aug. 7, 2007

You know, I think I'll be so busy, I'm just not going to worry about [perpetual campaigning]. We're going to try to do national health care as soon as we get in there. We're going to have to bring people together to do that.

Sen. Christopher Dodd

Sen. Christopher Dodd

CNN/ YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

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[On whether his plan would cover undocumented workers] It would. People who live in this country—children certainly would be covered. And I'm in support of the immigration policy here that requires them to contribute so that … if they're paying part of that thing, then they also get covered. Because, frankly, I don't want them contributing disease problems and health issues to the rest of the ...

New Hampshire Debate, June 3, 2007

Well, listen, this is a–there's not a person in this audience or who's watching this program who wouldn't tell you that they've encountered the problems of the health-care system in this country.
It is shameful. We rank 42nd in infant mortality in the United States worldwide. We rank 45th in life expectancy. It is shameful that in the 21st century, we have 47 million of our fellow citizens without health-care coverage; 9 million children. And the number's growing every single day.

Look, as we've said here, there's basic agreement about universality here, dealing with information technology, preventive care, chronic illnesses–what's been missing in all of this is the ability to bring people together to get the job done. That's what I've done for 26 years. That's what you need to be able to do, because no one party is going to write this whole thing. It's going to take cooperation to get it done.

AFL-CIO Debate, Aug. 7, 2007

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Let me say one quick thing on this health-care issue. Every member of Congress up here has a pretty good health-care plan; I want Americans to have as good a health-care plan as members of Congress have.

Sen. John Edwards

Sen. John Edwards

South Carolina Debate, April 26, 2007

I'm proud of the fact that I have a very specific universal health-care plan, which I think is different than some others on the stage who are running for president.

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And I think we have a responsibility, if you want to be president of the United States, to tell the American people what it is you want to do.

Rhetoric's not enough. Highfalutin language is not enough. And my plan would require employers to cover all their employees or pay into a fund that covers the cracks in the health-care system–mental-health parity, which others have spoken about; chronic care; preventative care; long-term care; subsidized health-care costs.

Give people a choice, including a government choice; no pre-existing conditions–banned as a matter of law. And the law actually requires that every single American be covered.

CNN/ YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

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More women have difficulty getting the health care that they need than men do. And I was the first person to come out with a comprehensive, truly universal health-care plan.

The only way to provide universal coverage is to mandate that everyone be covered. But I want to say, you know, I came out with a universal plan several months ago. A couple of months later, Sen. Obama came out with a plan. He's made a very serious proposal, and I'm not casting aspersions on his plan. I think it's a very serious proposal. It just doesn't cover everybody. The only way to cover everybody is to mandate it.

And the stories we have just heard, from diabetes, to Alzheimer's to cancer—there are millions of people in this country who are suffering so badly. And just this past week—in fact, you were with me on the third day—I went on a three-day poverty tour in America.

The last day, I was with a man in western Virginia, in the Appalachian Mountains—51 years old, three years younger than me. He'd been born with a severe cleft palate, and he was proud of the fact that someone had finally volunteered to correct it. He had not been able to talk—I want to finish this. He had not been able to talk until it was fixed.

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Here was the problem. It was fixed when he was 50 years old. For five decades, James Lowe lived in the richest nation on the planet not able to talk because he couldn't afford the procedure that would've allowed him to talk. When are we going to stand up and do something about this?

We have talked about it too long. We have got to stand up to the insurance companies and the drug companies that Barack just spoke about. It is the only way we're ever going to bring about real change. We should be outraged by these stories.

New Hampshire Debate, June 3, 2007

Let me say, first, I think it's a very healthy thing that we have Democrats coming out with health-care plans. This country's health-care system is completely dysfunctional. I am proud of the fact that I was the first person to come out with a specific, truly universal health-care plan.

Sen. Obama came out with a plan just a few days ago, which I don't believe is completely universal, but he deserves to be credited because he laid out what the cost is, and exactly how he was going to pay for it. I do believe that—and by the way, you didn't say this, but my plan costs $90 billion to $120 billion a year. I'd pay for it by getting rid of Bush's tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 a year.

And I believe you cannot cover everybody in America, create a more efficient health-care system, cover the cracks, you know, getting rid of things like pre-existing conditions and making sure that mental health is treated the same as physical health, I don't think you can do all those things for nothing. That's not the truth. And I think people have been so sick of listening to politicians who come and say, "We're going to give you universal health care. We're going to change the way we use energy in America. We're going to strengthen the middle class, have middle-class tax cuts, and, in the process, we're going to eliminate the federal deficit."

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Washington, D.C., Debate, June 28, 2007

We have two health-care systems in America, and we know that race plays an enormous role in the problems that African-Americans face and the problems that African-Americans face with health care every single day. There are huge health-care disparities, which is why we need universal health care in this country. But we have work to do. All of us have work to do. And by the way, also making sure that every single American, including people of color, are allowed to vote and that their vote is counted in the election and that we know that their voice is heard in the election.

AFL-CIO Debate, Aug. 7, 2007

I have a very simple view about this. My view is that we ought to treat the pensions and the retirement of the chairmen and CEOs of companies exactly the way we treat every other worker in the company and we ought to have universal health care in this country. We need it in the worst kind of way so that when you're bargaining, you're not bargaining about health-care costs.

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But I want to say one other thing. I intend to be the president of the United States who walks onto the White House lawn and explains to America how important unions and organized labor is to the future and the economic security of this country. It is fine to come up on this stage and give a nice talk. The question is, who's been with you in the crunch? In the last few years, 200 times I have walked picket lines. I have helped organize thousands of workers with 23 national unions. I have worked with employers.

I asked James Lowe, who's 51 years old, who I referred to in a previous debate, who's from Virginia, to be here tonight. He was born with a severe cleft palate and lived 50 years of his life in America without being able to speak because he couldn't get the health care that he needed.

Now, I don't know about you. He was very noble and kind about it. I think it is outrageous that in the United States of America somebody could live for five decades not able to talk because they can't get the health care they need. When are we going to actually stand up to these drug companies, these insurance companies? We've got to stop playing nice. We have to beat these people. There is too much at stake for America and too much at stake for people like James Lowe.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Rep. Dennis Kucinich

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New Hampshire Debate, June 3, 2007

And the American people should know that with half the bankruptcies in the country connected to people not being able to pay their doctor bills or hospital bills, premiums, co-pays, and deductibles are going so far through the roof, 46 million Americans with no health care, another 50 million underinsured, there is only one way to get health-care coverage for all Americans. And that is to have a universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health-care system, Medicare for all.

I have written the bill. It is HR 676, with John Conyers, supported by 14,000 physicians.

And you know what? What Sen. Clinton, Sen. Edwards, Sen. Obama are talking about, they're talking about letting the insurance companies stay in charge. They're talking about continuing a for-profit health care system. And I think we need a president who is ready to challenge that. And I'm ready to challenge the insurance companies.

AFL-CIO Debate, August 7, 2007

I've introduced a bill. I'm the co-author of a bill, HR 676, to provide for universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care, Medicare for all. Isn't it time to cover every American with a not-for-profit system? Furthermore, 46 million Americans without any health care, 50 million Americans uninsured. You know and I know this is the issue at the bargaining table. With my plan, no more premiums, no more co-pays, no more deductibles. We're already paying for a universal standard of care, we're not getting it. Let's take health care off the bargaining table and put it right in the kitchen where people have the care with a Kucinich plan for universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care.

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First of all, you know, my position is to try to lead the Democrats, and so I have a bill for not-for-profit health care, where I've been able to get 72 members of Congress to sign on for it.

Sen. Barack Obama

Sen. Barack Obama

South Carolina Debate, April 26, 2007

No. 1, I think we should have a national pool that people can buy into if they don't have health insurance, similar to the ones that most of us who are in Congress enjoy right now. It doesn't make sense to me that my bosses, the taxpayers, may not have health insurance that I enjoy. And we can provide subsidies for those who can't afford the group rates that are available.

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The second thing I think that we're going to have to do is make sure that we control costs. We spend $2 trillion on health care in this country every year, 50 percent more than other industrialized nations. And yet, we don't have, necessarily, better outcomes. This week, we saw a story that showed that black infant mortality in this country is actually going up in some states, which is shameful and makes no sense. And if we make sure that we provide preventive care and medical technology that can eliminate bureaucracy and paperwork, that makes a big difference.

The third thing is catastrophic insurance to help businesses and families avoid the bankruptcies that we're experiencing all across the country and reduced premiums for families.

New Hampshire Debate, June 3, 2007

By the way, I think John [Edwards] has a lot of good elements in his plan. And I think that as people release their plans, I think there's going to be a lot of overlap, which is a good thing.

But the main disagreement with John and I is John believes that we have to have mandatory insurance for everyone in order to have universal health care. My belief is that most families want health care, but they can't afford it. And so my emphasis is on driving down the costs, taking on the insurance companies, making sure that they are limited in the ability to extract profits and deny coverage; that we make sure the drug companies have to do what's right by their patients instead of simply hording their profits.

If we do those things, then I believe that we can drive down the costs for families. In fact, we've got very conservative, credible estimates that say we can save families that do have health insurance about a $1,000 a year. And we can also make sure that we provide coverage for everybody else. And we do provide mandatory health care for children.

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I agree with [Edwards] on the second point, which is, we've got these savings, and we're still going to have to do a little bit more, partly because you've got to invest up front in, for example, information technology, so that rural hospitals that don't have computers are able to buy them—and they're going to need some help.

But on this issue of mandatory versus nonmandatory … if you look at auto insurance, in California, there's mandatory auto insurance–25 percent of the folks don't have it. The reason is because they can't afford it. So John and I, we're not that different in this sense, that I am committed to starting the process. Everybody who wants it can buy it and it is affordable.

If we have some gaps remaining, we will work on that. You take it from the opposite direction, but you're still going to have some folks who aren't insured under your plan, John, because some of them will simply not be able to afford to buy the coverage that they were offered.

CNN/ YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

John thinks that the only way we get universal coverage is to mandate coverage. I think that the problem is not that people are trying to avoid getting health-care coverage. It is folks like that who are desperately in desire of it, but they can't afford it. And I know from personal experience. My mother, when she was between jobs, contracted cancer, and she spent the last few months of her life trying to figure out whether or not she was going to be able to pay for the treatments. It is an outrage. How is it that the wealthiest nation on Earth cannot afford to provide coverage to all people? And that's why I put forward a plan.

But let's understand this. Everybody here is going to have a plan. John's got a plan. I've got a plan. Hopefully, everybody here will provide a plan for universal coverage. But we've had plan before, under a Democratic president in the '90s and a Democratic Congress. We couldn't get it done because the drug insurance—drug and insurance companies are spending $1 billion over the last decade on lobbying.

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And that's why we've got to have a president who is willing to fight to make sure that they don't have veto power. They can have a seat at the table, but they can't buy every single chair when it comes to crafting the sort of universal health care that's going to help the folks that you saw in that video.

Gov. Bill Richardson

Gov. Bill Richardson

South Carolina Debate, April 26, 2007

As Democrats, I just hope that we always don't think of new taxes to pay for programs.

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This is what I would do—and I'm a governor; I deal with this issue every day. I deal with the issue of guns every day. I deal with almost everything you asked, as a chief executive.

This is what I would do. I would have the following principles. In our health-care plan, my new health-care plan, no new bureaucracy. Every American shares, along with businesses, the state and the federal government. I would focus on prevention.

I would also ensure that the first thing we do is deal with the bureaucracy and inefficiencies in our health-care system. Thirty-one percent of our health care goes to inefficiencies and bureaucracy.

If we had a health information system where doctors and nurses could share information about health care, we would save billions of dollars. I would also make sure that we would re-establish the doctor-patient relationship, eliminate those in the middle, like HMOs and others. But my plan, I believe, would focus on prevention. We need to focus more on deterring these diseases, like diabetes, that is 30 percent of our Medicare costs.

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New Hampshire Debate, June 3, 2007

No. 1: My plan is mandatory. You do have everybody sharing–the employer, the employee–you have the state and the federal government. Secondly, I believe that we can have a plan where, if you were satisfied with your health-care plan, you can keep it. No new bureaucracies. But, in addition to that, you focus on prevention. You allow everybody to get the congressional plan that every member here has.

Under my health-care plan, if you have served this country—enlisted, a veteran—I would give you under my health-care plan, your husband, a hero's health card so that your husband could get health care anywhere they want, with any doctor, with any hospital. Our system right now, our VA system, is good, but we have to offer our veterans that choice. Some have to go 150 miles, especially in rural areas.

I would also do something else in terms of veterans' health care. What we have in our VA system is cost-of-living increases for other benefits, but not for VA health care. And today a lot of our vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, PTSD, mental health. We cannot do enough to help them. And it's critically important that we have a well-funded VA system.

CNN/ YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

[On whether his plan would cover undocumented workers] Yes, it would. It should cover everybody. In this country, no matter who you are, whether you're a ditch-digger, you're a teacher, you're a CEO, you're a waiter, you're a maid, every American deserves the right to the best possible quality health care.

AFL-CIO Debate, Aug. 7, 2007

What I would also say to you as an Iraqi war veteran, when you come home, I will have guaranteed to protect our veterans, to fully fund VA hospitals, to deal with the issues like mental health and PTSD for thousands of our Iraqi and Afghanistan vets coming home. And something else I will do for all veterans–today you've got to get your health care at the VA; sometimes it's 170 miles away. They're understaffed, they're not fully funded. I would guarantee funding for those VA hospitals, but I would also give you a hero's health card so that you and Iraqi, Afghanistan, all veterans can get health care in America anywhere you want, anywhere you want.