Democrats Win 8 Gubernatorial Races, Picking Up One New Seat
Out of 11 gubernatorial elections, Democrats successfully defended seven current seats and picked up one additional statehouse with Rep. Robert Wise's (D) win over incumbent Gov. Cecil Underwood (R). The result: little change in the partisan makeup of the nation's statehouses, with the tally standing at 29 Republican governors (down from 30), 19 Democrats (up from 18) and two independents ( Washington Post, 11/8). Below, the results of each governor's race, as well as the winner's record or positions on health care issues. Democratic Lt. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner has defeated former state Chamber of Commerce President John Burris by a 60% to 40% margin (CNN.com, 11/8). As part of her campaign, Minner proposed expanding Medicaid coverage to families earning 200% of the federal poverty level. She also plans to increase outreach efforts to enroll more families and children into Medicaid and the state Healthy Children health insurance program. Minner has also expressed support for a patients' bill of rights (www.ruthann.org). Indiana Indiana incumbent Frank O'Bannon (D) has defeated Republican challenger David McIntosh, 56% to 42% (CNN.com, 11/8). During his one term in office, O'Bannon helped push through reforms requiring HMOs to establish an independent or external review process and secured the right to mental health parity in HMO contracts. He also supported a Patient Protection Act that guarantees patients "full and timely access" to providers, the right to out-of-network referrals when necessary, and access to drugs not normally covered under certain circumstances. He expanded the Hoosier Healthwise program (the state's CHIP program) to cover over 100,000 previously uninsured children and increased health care options for the elderly, which included allocating $20 million in tobacco settlement money to help cover the cost of prescription drugs for low-income seniors (www.obannon-kernan.com, 11/8). Missouri Bob Holden (D), current state treasurer, has defeated Rep. James Talent (R), 50% to 47% (CNN.com, 11/8). Holden has said he hopes to pursue a number of health care initiatives as governor. He plans to strengthen legal protections for patients in managed care and other health plans, and advocates stronger protection of patients' privacy rights. One "specific area" his administration will focus on is the protection of women's health issues. Holden has pledged that his administration will be "committed to an expansive conception of patients' rights that emphasizes greater access to quality health care coverage." For seniors facing "catastrophic" drug costs, Holden plans to implement "safety net" prescription drug coverage. He supports the expansion of health care in rural and underserved areas, and will pay "special attention" to children's health care needs (www.holdenforgovernor.co m). Montana Lt. Gov. Judy Martz (R) has defeated Democratic challenger Mark O'Keefe 52% to 47% (CNN.com, 11/8). For six years until 1998, she served on the St. James Community Hospital board in Butte, working directly with health care issues. As a piece of her larger plan to reinvigorate employment and business opportunities in Montana, Martz plans to offer tax incentives to employers to allow them to offer better benefits for workers (www.martz-ohs2000.org). New Hampshire Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen was reelected over GOP challenger Gordon Humphrey, 49% to 44%. During her campaign, Shaheen touted health care successes like the HMO Accountability Act, signed into law in September, which gives patients the right to appeal coverage decisions to an independent, external review panel of experts; stipulates that HMO medical directors must be licensed to practice medicine in New Hampshire; and forces HMOs to disclose financial incentives given to providers. Now, the governor says her goal is to ensure every child in the Granite State has health insurance. To do this, she has proposed extending outreach efforts to reach children and their families in schools and hospital emergency rooms (www.shaheen.org). North Carolina Two-term Attorney General Mike Easley (D) beat out challenger Richard Vinroot (R) 52% to 46% (CNN.com, 11/8). Easley, who has served two terms as North Carolina's attorney general, has stressed health care throughout his campaign, calling for managed care reform and increased patient privacy protections. Easley strongly supports a "sunshine act" that would ban "gag clauses" preventing doctors from discussing the business practices of managed care plans with their patients. Easley hopes that states will be able to provide additional rights for patients "beyond whatever minimum federal protections are enacted ultimately" ( www.mikeeasley.org). He has also adopted a "bol[d] stance" on the issue of prescription drugs, proposing to use North Carolina's share of the national tobacco settlement to help seniors pay for pharmaceuticals (Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 11/6). As attorney general, Easley has "repeatedly intervened on behalf of consumers in disputes against managed care companies...demanding that any conversion of a not-for-profit health entity to 'for-profit' status include the creation of a charitable trust devoted to extending health services" (www.mikeeasley.org). North Dakota John Hoeven (R) has defeated state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp (D), 55% to 45%, for the state's open governor's seat (CNN.com, 11/8). In September, Hoeven proposed a "comprehensive" prescription drug plan for seniors, which he hopes to provide through the private sector. His program would reimburse drug purchases for North Dakota seniors aged 65 and older with incomes below 150% of the poverty level. For seniors with incomes between 150%-300% of the poverty level, Hoeven hopes to provide "stop loss" coverage for all prescription drug costs exceeding $3,000; for seniors above 300% of the poverty level, the "stop loss" coverage would kick in for expenses exceeding $6,000 (www.hoeven2000.com). Utah Incumbent Utah Governor Mike Leavitt (R) has defeated Democratic challenger Bill Orton 56% to 43% (CNN.com, 11/8). According to Leavitt's Web site, in 1994, during his first term as governor, Leavitt implemented HealthPrint, a seven-year plan for "increasing health care services, containing health care costs, and improving the quality of health care in Utah." As part of the HealthPrint plan, Leavitt helped to create Utah's Children's Health Insurance Program, which currently provides health insurance for over 17,000 children under age 19 (http://www.mikeleavitt.com/record/health_care.html). Vermont Incumbent Gov. Howard Dean (D) will remain governor of Vermont, after earning just over the 50% majority required by the state's constitution to obtain the position. Dean, a physician, squeaked out a win with 51% of the vote, trailed by challengers Ruth Dwyer (R) with 39% and Progressive candidate Anthony Pollina with 10% (CNN.com, 11/8). Health care has been "one of the most hotly contested issues" in this year's campaign, and Dean has outlined several proposals for future efforts in the areas of prescription drugs, the uninsured and Medicaid reform (Sneyd, Associated Press, 10/10). Dean has touted both Vermont's low rate of uninsured residents and his policy of gradually expanding Medicaid as providing "greater security to families who need health coverage" (Associated Press, 10/10). During his tenure as governor, Dean has implemented numerous reforms in the area of health care. Last June he created the Vermont Health Access Plan, which provides a variety of health benefits to state residents, including the elderly, children and low-income adults. He also implemented a program called Dr. Dynasaur, which offers free medical and dental care to children under age 18 from families with incomes below $50,000 a year. As of June, 93% of all Vermont residents had health insurance (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 6/19). On prescription drugs, Dean recently won approval from the Clinton administration to implement a program that would allow enrollees in the Dr. Dynasaur program to receive discounts of up to 30% on prescription drugs. The plan could allow as many as 70,000 people to qualify for the discounted rates charged by pharmaceutical companies to people enrolled in the Medicaid program (Sneyd, Associated Press, 11/3). Washington Incumbent Gov. Gary Locke (D) has defeated radio talk show host John Carlson (R) 59% to 40% to retain his seat, according to CNN (CNN.com, 11/8). During his first term, which began in 1997, Locke oversaw the passage of "one of the strongest" patients' rights bills in the country; expanded Washington's Basic Health Plan, which offers low cost insurance to employed, low-income constituents, to allow coverage for more individuals; and established the state's Children's Health Insurance Program. Locke's goals for his second term include creating programs to help cover the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly and individuals with disabilities; increasing the number of children receiving health insurance coverage; providing immunizations for all children under age five; and restructuring rural hospitals to provide day care and assisted living programs for seniors in addition to creating "localized community health plans [through] joint ventures with state providers" (www.garylocke.com). West Virginia Rep. Bob Wise (D) has defeated incumbent Gov. Cecil Underwood (R) in a 50%-48% victory (CNN.com, 11/8). Health care was a big issue in this race, as Wise and Underwood tangled frequently over prescription drug benefits and children's health insurance. Wise said that the Underwood administration "mismanaged" the state's Children's Health Insurance Program, potentially costing West Virginia $11.6 million in unused federal funding (Coleman, AP/Charleston Gazette, 8/29). When Underwood announced last month that Medicare beneficiaries could pay less for prescription drugs by obtaining a discount card that would offer price reductions "equal to current Public Employees Insurance Agency discounts," Wise dismissed the plan as "campaign posturing." Wise said he favors developing a "prescription drug purchasing poll with PEIA, Medicaid and Workers' Compensation" so the state could obtain "bargaining power" with drug companies (Kabler, Charleston Gazette, 10/19). Wise also advocates a West Virginia "patient protection act" and said he worked for a prescription drug benefit through Medicare as a member of the House (www.bobwise2000.org). In Congress, Wise voted against the Medicare Rx 2000 Act, which would "provide voluntary prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries through subsidies to private plans"; voted for the Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999, which would ban the use of drugs for physician-assisted suicide; and voted against establishing tax-exempt medical savings accounts ( www.issues2000.org).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.