Presidential Politics and Health Care

Last Wednesday, our New Hampshire Field Coordinator, Nancy Ryan, told you about NBCC’s 2008 presidential campaign project, Breast Cancer Caucus. Today, April 28, we had an exciting political plenary featuring representatives from the three remaining presidential campaigns (Catherine Brown for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D); Dianne Kube for Sen. John McCain (R), and Kavita Patel for Sen. Barack Obama (D)). They answered questions about their candidates’ plans for health care reform and they reacted to NBCC’s just released “Framework for a Health Care System Guaranteeing Access to Quality Health Care for All“.

Moderator Susan Dentzer started the session by saluting NBCC for “recognizing something that makes you unique among patient advocacy groups – that breast cancer is not an island unto itself. It exists in a sea of critical issues: access to health care; evidence-based medicine; and shared responsibility. It is critical that the next president takes these issues as seriously as you do.”

Susan asked the campaign representatives if their candidate believes, as NBCC does, that health care is a right. Dianne, speaking for Senator McCain, responded, “He believes everyone needs to have access to health care.” On behalf of Senator Obama, Kavita said, “He agrees that health care is a right.” Catherine said, “Senator Clinton agrees it is a right and she would require everyone to get health insurance and she would make it affordable.”

There was a discussion about the necessity for an individual mandate to purchase health insurance. Senator Clinton absolutely believes it is necessary to make health care affordable, yet she recognizes it may be politically unpopular. Senator Obama is not opposed to an individual mandate, Kavita said, adding that if it is the will of the nation he will pursue it but it is not part of his plan now. Senator McCain believes Americans should have freedom of choice. Dianne said he would be releasing more details about this aspect of his plan on April 29, including a separate program for those with low income.

The plenary closed after Ms. Dentzer asked the representatives to make predictions for a year from today: “Assume your candidate is elected president, and has been in office for 98 days. What will he or she have accomplished?” Catherine said Mrs. Clinton would have doubled the budget for the National Institutes of Health and other breast cancer research programs. She will have introduced legislation – the American Health Choices Plan. The Breast and Cervical Cancer screening and treatment programs will be fully funded to cover all those eligible, and a “best practices institute” will be up and running. Dianne said Mr. McCain would have put together a series of panels including consumers, insurers, providers, business and other stakeholders with a goal of determining how we can attain access to health care for all. Kavita said Mr. Obama will have introduced a bill which will have been approved by the appropriate Congressional committees and ready for floor debate. He will have put in place a cabinet and administrative heads to provide the leadership necessary to carry out any law that is enacted.

A record number of people have participated in the primaries and caucuses this year and NBCC encourages all of those people who care about breast cancer issues to become even more involved in this year’s elections. Another important way to participate is to sign the NBCC Breast Cancer Caucus voter pledge: “In the 2008 primary, caucus, and general elections, I pledge to vote to eradicate breast cancer.” And don’t forget to stay tuned to www.BreastCancerCaucus.org for updates on things you can do to make sure that your vote is a vote towards ending breast cancer.

To sign the pledge, click here. And be sure to forward it on to your friends!

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