Southeastern Congressional Candidates’ Health Positions
As Election Day draws near, the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report this week takes a look at the health care positions of candidates in several U.S. House and Senate races where health care has played a pivotal role. Today's report examines the Southeast region, detailing the candidates' positions on three issues: A Medicare prescription drug benefit; a patients' bill of rights; and abortion. In the race for southern Arkansas's fourth district House seat -- President Clinton's old stomping grounds -- prescription drugs are the hot issue. Pharmacist and state Sen. Mike Ross (D) is challenging three-term incumbent Rep. Jay Dickey (R). On Oct. 24, Dickey blamed Ross personally for the high price of prescription drugs, asking Ross if he became rich "by the profits that you have made off of senior citizens by the selling of prescriptions to them ... ?" (Lieb, Associated Press, 10/24). The key health-related issues include:
- Prescription drug benefit: Ross proposes adding a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens directly to Medicare (FreedomChannel.com). Dickey supports a voluntary, private-sector benefit plan in which drug costs would be lowered by including seniors in a group purchasing pool (DemocracyNet);
- Patients' rights: Ross supports the House-passed Norwood-Dingell patients' right bill (HR 2723), which Dickey voted against (Jefferson, Associated Press, 6/14).
- Abortion: Ross, who says he is "personally opposed to abortion," calls early-term abortion a "decision made by a woman, her family, and her creator -- not a decision made by politicians." He supports a ban on "partial-birth" abortions, as does Dickey (Blomeley, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 5/15). Dickey also is opposed to abortion more broadly, calling abortion an "intentional kill[ing]" and advocating birth control and adoption instead of abortion. He is opposed to "embryonic stem cell research" (DemocracyNet).
- Prescription drug benefit: Chapin supports adding a prescription drug benefit directly to Medicare (DemocracyNet.com). Keller endorses getting medicine to seniors "through the use of insurance companies" (Schneider, Associated Press, 10/31);
- Patients' rights: Both candidates support a "patients' bill of rights that essentially would give doctors more power than HMO officials when it comes to deciding which services and treatments patients need," and agree that "patients should be allowed to sue HMOs" (Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel, 10/31);
- Abortion: Keller supports "overturning ... Roe vs. Wade" (Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel, 10/29); Chapin "supports abortion rights" (Schneider, Associated Press, 10/24).
- Patients' rights: Baesler has criticized Fletcher's vote against the House-passed Norwood-Dingell patients' rights bill (H.R. 2723)(Brammer, Lexington Herald-Leader, 10/15);
- Prescription drugs: Baesler supports a "universal, guaranteed and voluntary" prescription drug benefit program within Medicare (www.baesler.com) . Fletcher supports giving seniors drug coverage "through subsidies to private plans" (issues2000.org);
- Abortion: Baesler calls himself an abortion-rights "defender." He has said he would not support legislation to restrict women's use of RU-486 (Baniak, Lexington Herald- Leader, 10/19). While in the House in 1998, Baesler voted to override President Clinton's veto of the "partial-birth" abortion ban (Barton, Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/2/1998). Fletcher also voted against partial-birth abortions, and supports a bill to regulate doctors providing RU-486 (Baniak, Herald- Leader).
- Prescription drugs: Robb proposes including a "voluntary" prescription drug benefit within Medicare (Robb campaign Web site), while Allen supports a GOP proposal that would give insurance companies government subsidies to encourage them to offer seniors affordable prescription policies (Lewis, Associated Press, 8/10);
- Patients' rights: Allen proposes a plan that would allow patients to "sue their HMO (but not their employer) after they utilize an independent review panel of doctors and specialists" (DemocracyNet). Robb supports "ensur[ing] patient access to appropriate medical care -- including specialists." He would hold "HMOs accountable by allowing individuals harmed by their decisions to seek compensation, and by establishing a strong independent appeals process where patients could challenge a plan's decision to deny care" (FreedomChannel.com);
- Abortion: This issue has been one of the hardest-fought of the campaign, with both candidates accusing the other of being an "extremist." Robb supports abortion rights, and has voted to keep abortion covered under Medicaid. He opposed legislation to ban "partial-birth abortions," although a spokesman said he "co-sponsored legislation that would have banned all late-term abortions except to protect the life and health of the mother" (Barisic, Associated Press, 10/31). Allen would permit first-trimester abortions, but proposes that "restrictions could begin in the first trimester of pregnancy." He opposes public funding of elective abortions (Smith, Washington Post, 10/26).