Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Kerry stumps for health care

Kerry stumps for health care

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 03/15/05

The problems facing the nation's health care system far outstrip those of Social Security, Sen. John Kerry told an Atlanta audience Monday in the first of a series of forums across the nation designed to promote his plan to guarantee medical coverage to the nation's children.

"We've got a problem with Social Security, sure, but it's a long-term and not even a short-term problem," Kerry (D-Mass.) told more than 100 medical professionals, lawmakers, activists and others at the Academy of Medicine on West Peachtree Street. "The crisis is in Medicare and Medicaid and the lack of affordable health care for all Americans."

The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee is trying to build public support for his "KidsFirst Act," in which the federal government would assume all responsibility for enrolling and insuring all children under 21 whose family incomes are under the poverty level. Currently, the states pay half of this cost, and with tight budgets and a patchwork of regulations, many children fall through the cracks.

In exchange for increased federal aid, the states would assume coverage under the State Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid for children of families up to three times the poverty level ($47,010 annual income for a family of three).

The deal would result in more than $10 billion in savings to the states every year, and the additional costs to the federal government could be paid for by not proceeding with the Bush administration's proposed additional tax cuts for Americans making more than $300,000 a year, Kerry said.

The prevention of medical problems detected early in life also could result in major savings to the health care system, he said.

The proposal presents a "moral choice," Kerry said: "Health care for all kids vs. tax cuts for those who make more than $300,000 a year."

The town-hall-style program had some of the trappings of a campaign stop, although Kerry said he is trying to enlist bipartisan support. KidsFirst has been endorsed by several public health groups, including the March of Dimes and the National Association of Children's Hospitals, as well as some labor organizations.

"I think this is definitely a bipartisan effort. This is an American problem. We're talking about our children," said program moderator Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, a Piedmont Hospital internist who is a past president of the American College of Physicians.

The forum in Atlanta was the first of a series on KidsFirst that Kerry said he will conduct across the country in coming months. He said he also plans to write a book about what American families have at stake in issues such as health care and the environment.

At a meeting later with editors of the Journal-Constitution, Kerry said he wants to have a town meeting in South Georgia so that people "can come to me and pepper me with questions, so we can have a real discussion."

Making his first trip to Georgia since the primary elections last March, Kerry said he plans to sit down later in the week with his former rival and now the Democratic national chairman, Howard Dean, to discuss the future of the party.


Post a Comment

<< Home