Health care has taken center stage in the race between President George W.
Bush and Sen. John Kerry. WebMD Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich talked
to top staff members from each campaign to find out how the candidates would
address 10 major challenges in today's health care system. The candidates were
asked the same questions. The answers have been edited for style and length
only, not for content.
Megan Hauck, the deputy policy director for the Bush/Cheney campaign,
presented Bush's views.
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1) What do you consider the biggest health-care challenge today?
It is vitally important that health care be accessible and affordable for
every American. Rising health-care costs have too often taken patients out of
the health-care decision-making process. Today, too many lawsuits without merit
are being filed against doctors and hospitals, forcing them to practice defense
medicine, driving good doctors out of practice, and increasing health-care
costs for everyone.
2) What are your plans to correct the problem?
President Bush supports commonsense reforms to the medical liability system
that reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and control excessive jury awards.
The president's proposal for reform would ensure that injured persons are fully
compensated for their full economic losses, while reasonably limiting
non-economic damages to $250,000. It would also reserve punitive damages for
cases where there is egregious conduct, ensure that old cases cannot be brought
years after an event, and provide that defendants pay judgments in proportion
to their fault. While everyone who has a legitimate claim must have their day
in court, no patient has ever been healed by frivolous lawsuits. Frivolous
lawsuits and excessive jury awards are a national problem, and the crisis
deserves a national solution. The Department of Health and Human Services
recently determined that medical liability reforms could extend health
insurance to 2.6 to 5.1 million additional Americans.
In addition to fighting for medical liability reforms, the president's
health-care agenda also includes promoting health information technology that
will improve health care quickly, save lives, and save money. President Bush
has set up an ambitious goal that Americans will have electronic medical
records within a decade because he believes that America's health-care system
can benefit from an information infrastructure that provides patients and
doctors with complete and accurate medical records. This technology will reduce
unnecessary treatments and reduce red tape.
3) Do you have any plans to help control the rising costs of prescription drugs?
President Bush was proud to sign the Medicare Modernization Act this year,
which for the first time is providing all 40 million Medicare beneficiaries
with a voluntary prescription drug benefit. This drug benefit will give seniors
their choice of various plans to help them afford the cost of their
Seniors are seeing immediate relief with Medicare prescription drug cards,
which are cutting 16% to 30% off retail prices of most brand-name medicines and
30% to 60% off the price of generics, and providing an annual $600 subsidy to
Beginning in 2006, for a low monthly premium of about $35, seniors can
choose among plans to have Medicare pay 75% of the cost of all prescription
drugs up to $2,250 a year and 95% of catastrophic drug costs. Our 12 million
low-income seniors will see the greatest benefits, with 100% coverage of
prescription drug costs with a $1 to $5 co-pay. For the first time, we are
giving seniors the peace of mind that they will not have to face unlimited
expenses for their medicine.