Health Care 2008: Where Do the Candidates Stand? Part 2-Obama and Thompson

January 8, 2008

election081.jpgIn this series, we try to cut through some of the media hype and summarize the health care proposals put forward by the leading candidates for President.

Commentary by Aaron Lord MD, PGY-1

With the New Hampshire primaries upon us, there’s no time to lose! Here’s a summary of the health plans of two more candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Fred Thompson.

Barack Obama (D)

Like Hillary Clinton’s plan (see the first post in this series), as well as those of many other Democratic candidates, Obama’s “Plan for a Healthy America” proposes universal coverage, made possible through a number of proposals. Individuals and small businesses would be able to “buy affordable health care similar to that available to federal employees” or choose from a newly created federal insurance program. A proposed National Health Insurance Exchange would allow anyone to enroll in participating private plans. Medicaid and CHIP would be expanded and employers would be obligated to finance at least part of their employees’ health coverage. The plan would make illegal discrimination by insurance companies on the basis of pre-existing conditions.

Proposed financing of his plan includes increased efficiency from investment in information technology, better management of chronic diseases, and promotion of preventive medicine. Obama is also in favor of repealing the ban on direct negotiation by the Medicare drug plan (Part D) and proposes decreased payments to private Medicare plans (which on average charge 12% more than government-run Medicare). In addition, a proposed national reinsurance plan for catastrophic coverage would decrease premiums by having government shoulder the cost of the longest and most expensive hospital stays, for example in the ICU. No dollar figures are given in his proposal.

Fred Thompson (R)

The Thompson website only offers a paragraph and five bullet points on health care. He is against “imposing new mandates or raising taxes” and supports health care that “creates a system around individual consumers and patients by providing more information and more opportunities to choose affordable health care options that best meet their needs and those of their families.” Unfortunately, he has not released a more thorough plan, so voters will have to wait to hear more.