Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where the candidates stand on the health care reform act

Whoever becomes Florida’s next U.S. senator may face efforts to repeal or weaken the health care reform act that President Obama signed into law in March. Where do our candidates stand of the issue?

Marco Rubio (R)
Marco Rubio has said, “I’m the only candidate in this race who has opposed ObamaCare and vowed to repeal ... it ....”

Kendrick Meek (D)
As Congressman from Florida’s 17th District, Meek (like all Florida Democrats) voted FOR the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Not a single Republican voted for the bill.

Even better, Meek supports the public option. On his campaign blog in October 2009, he said:
“I think Governor Charlie Crist is wrong about a lot of issues, but he really missed the mark when he said: "The public option, I think, may be sort of a Trojan horse to a government take over of health care." ... A public option is exactly what we need to bring down costs and introduce competition into the health care industry.”
For a summary of Meek’s votes on health care issues by OnTheIssues.org, click here.

Charlie Crist
Crist has had trouble articulating his position on the heath care act. Before April, when he resigned from the Republican Party, he favored repeal. When he began courting Democrats, his position wobbled.

Investigating charges of flip-flopping by Marco Rubio, PolitiFact Florida summarized Crist’s statements this way:

  • March 21: Crist said he's against the bill and favors repeal.
  • July 20: Crist said he doesn't support repealing the bill and wants to modify it.
  • July 29: Crist again said he would have voted against the bill and wants to modify it.
  • Aug. 27, noon: Crist said he would have voted for the bill.
  • Aug. 27, 2 p.m.: Crist said he would have voted against the bill.

According to PolitiFact Florida, Crist’s 2 p.m. statement said in part:
"If I misspoke, I want to be abundantly clear: the health care bill was too big, too expensive, and expanded the role of government far too much. Had I been in the United States Senate at the time, I would have voted against the bill because of unacceptable provisions like the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program."

A look at the “Healthcare Initiatives” page on Crist’s Florida Governor website lists these “four initiatives aimed at improving healthcare in the state of Florida”:

  • work to make healthcare more affordable by leveraging the power of Floridians to negotiate better prices for prescription drugs
  • work to improve access to care by increasing healthcare options so that emergency care is not the only choice, strengthening health in our rural communities, and increasing the quality of emergency care
  • advocate for a commitment to prevention
  • improve the quality of care through innovation: work to create standards for best practices to reduce hospital-acquired infections and improve outcomes in all healthcare settings by collecting and managing data on mistakes or oversights

It sounds like he’s focused on many of the right issues (affordability, access, prevention, innovation), but not the need for wholesale reform.  Unfortunately I don't know whether Florida's health care system has improved or worsened on these measures under Crist's leadership.  If any of my readers can weigh in on this, I'd appreciate it.

Right now, Crist is in “say-whatever-it-takes-to-get-elected” mode. He needs to win votes from people who think health care reform didn’t do enough, as well as those who think it went too far, so his campaign rhetoric may not be the best evidence of what he'd do as a senator.. And that makes me nervous.  Meek is a known entity on health care reform.

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