Monday, October 13, 2008

Where do the candidates stand on health care?

Health care can be one of the most important issues in an election, but also one of the most complicated, so it often doesn't get the coverage it deserves, especially in newspapers without wire services. But there are plenty of online resources for stories, or just for linking, about the positions of candidates in this year's presidential race. Susan Brink of the Los Angeles Times offers a very useful summary:

The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports independent research on healthcare, finds fundamental differences between the two plans. The organization has summarized the candidates' positions in 22 areas, including prescription drugs, healthcare disparities, preventive medicine and chronic disease management. Go to

The Kaiser Family Foundation has several tools exploring McCain's and Obama's positions on health issues, including a side-by-side comparison of the candidates' proposals to reduce the number of uninsured and deal with public programs like Medicare, their positions on taxing employees' health benefits and their plans to pay for it all. The site also includes comparisons of the candidates' positions on stem cell research, electronic medical records, medical malpractice, mental health parity, prescription drug costs, women's health and veterans' health. Go to

The Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, estimates that over 10 years, McCain's plan would cost the federal budget $1.3 trillion, while Obama's plan would cost $1.6 trillion. Go to

Political scientist Jonathan Oberlander, associate professor of social medicine and health policy and administration at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, offers an analysis of the candidates' plans in the Aug. 21 New England Journal of Medicine, including a chart with key points. For this and other journal reports on the campaign, look for the "Election 2008" label at

Brink also notes a University of Virginia debate between the candidates' health-policy advisers, avalable in podcast or mp3 download, and competing views from Physicians for a National Health Program and the libertarian Cato Institute.

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