Health care reform was one of the few issues on which Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tried to differentiate themselves during their debate tonight. They acknowledged substantial similarities in their plans. Senator Obama went so far as to describe them as being “95 percent” the same. Both candidates call for the government to offer consumers an alternative to the private market, for example.
When compared to the health care reform packages offered by the Republican candidates (which rely more on market reforms and avoids extensive government intervention) the Democratic Senators’ proposals are virtually indistinguishable. But campaigns are about choices, so they emphasized the five percent.
Senator Clinton’s proposal seeks to provide universal coverage by requiring health plans to accept all applicants and all residents to buy coverage. Senator Obama focuses on reducing the cost of health care coverage. As I’ve written before, this tension between access and affordability mirrors California’s recent health care reform debate.
The candidates described their differences in stark terms, as a seemingly irreconcilable chasm between them. In reality, while differing in emphasis, these two approaches are not really either-or propositions. They’re complimentary. Don’t take my word for it — ask my son.
He turned 13 a few weeks ago. Health care reform is not high on his list of interests. However, he’s recently gotten interested in the primary so he joined me tonight to watch the debate. As Senators Clinton and Obama went back and forth on their reform packages, he asked me what the argument was about. Thanks to the miracle of DVRs I was able to pause the debate and explain. We resumed watching and, after another couple minutes of the candidate’s throwing health care statistics around he grabs the remote, presses pause and exclaims, “This is so stupid. First you make it affordable and then you make sure everyone buys it.”
So, now that we’ve got that resolved, I’m going to have him start work on creating the Democratic party’s position on immigration.