Manchester, NH (CNSNews.com) - New Hampshire remains ground zero for the healthcare debate, with Democrats Al Gore and Bill Bradley defending and "selling" their own healthcare proposals, hoping voters will notice what makes the candidates different.
In Wednesday's jousting, Vice President Al Gore insisted Bradley's plan would rob some Granite State residents of their health coverage, while Bradley shot back, insisting a recent study of this state's 96,000 uninsured showed that a majority of them would be covered under Bradley's proposal. A Bradley spokesman said the senator's plan would guarantee coverage for all children and provide access for all adults. He said the plan would also make insurance more affordable for working families by allowing all Americans to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums.
"It's astonishing to see so many working people in New Hampshire without access to health care," said Dr. Charles Wira, a professor of medicine at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, in commenting on the study. "Bill Bradley has proposed a plan that will make sure that we not only insure all children, but makes it affordable for parents to receive the health care they need as well. His plan doesn't just provide health care, but health security," added the professor.
Bradley continued to rake Gore's proposal over the coals, insisting "it does nothing to help the millions of Americans who have trouble affording health insurance and it does not guarantee access to health care for children."
But Gore says Bradley's proposal would spend all of the anticipated federal budget surplus, while his own proposal would protect the surplus -- guaranteeing insurance to all children by the year 2005, when the next president concludes his first term. Gore also insists that once children are insured, he would expand coverage to adults and do it all within the confines of a balanced budget. Bradley has called the Gore plan "incremental" and lacking in "boldness."
While Gore continues to fault Bradley for proposing the elimination of Medicaid, Bradley points to a report, issued this week by the Century Foundation, which characterizes Medicaid as "a tangled mess of inefficiency and inconsistency that fails to meet the basic health care needs of the nation's low income population."
Bradley says his proposal will replace Medicaid with the same program that currently insures federal workers. Bradley also pointed to a recent report from Consumers Union, the publisher of "Consumer Reports," which praised the candidate's plan as "a more meaningful starting point for tackling the problem of the uninsured." That report rated the Bradley plan higher than Gore's in seven out of eight categories.
Late Wednesday, Bradley accused Gore of using "scare tactics and divisiveness" that would only hurt the goal of "health care for all." Bradley's comment followed Gore's appearance in Concord, during which the vice president insisted the Bradley health care plan would especially hurt the disabled.
Earlier in the week, Gore said his opponent's plan would also hurt minorities and those with AIDS. "Health care for all Americans is the kind of fundamental Democratic principle I would expect Democrats to stand and fight for. Instead, Al Gore has embraced the Washington reality that says it is easier to campaign against your opponent than for yourself," Bradley charged.