2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

Section 5: Health Care and Social Security


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The NAACP 2008 Presidential Candidate Civil Rights Questionnaire



If elected President, what actions, if any, would you take to ensure that all Americans have access to comprehensive, high quality and affordable quality health care?
Senator Clinton:

When I am President, I will ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. It will be my top domestic priority. My American Health Choices Plan is based on the ideas of shared responsibility and choice. If you have a plan you like, you can keep it. But if you want to change plans or you don't have coverage, you can choose from plans Members of Congress have or you can opt into a public plan like

Medicare. Under my plan, families will get a refundable tax credit designed to prevent premiums from exceeding a certain percentage of family income, and small businesses will receive a tax credit for providing health care to their employees. My plan will also ensure that insurance companies cannot discriminate against people on the basis of age, race, gender, or other risk factors, like preexisting conditions. And my plan is vital to closing the disturbing racial and ethnic health disparities that are pervasive throughout our health care system -- on virtually every measure of health and well-being, African Americans fare worse than whites. Providing universal health care is a critical step in addressing that disparity.
Senator Obama:

I will sign a universal health bill into law by the end of my first term in office. My plan will ensure that all Americans have health care coverage through their employers, private health plans, the federal government, or the states. My plan builds on and improves our current insurance system, which most Americans continue to rely upon, and creates a new public health plan for those currently without coverage. Under my plan, Americans will be able to choose to maintain their current coverage if they choose to. For those without health insurance I will establish a new public insurance program, and provide subsides to afford care for those who need them. My plan includes a mandate that all children have health care coverage and I will expand eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs to help ensure we cover all kids. My plan requires all employers to contribute towards health coverage for their employees or towards the cost of the public plan.

Under my plan a typical family will save up to $2,500 each year. We will realize tremendous savings within the health care system from improving efficiency and quality and reducing wasted expenditures system-wide. Specifically, these savings will result from investments in health information technology, improvements inprevention and management of chronic conditions, increased insurance industry competition and reduced industry overhead, the provision of federal reinsurance for catastrophic coverage, and reduced spending on uncompensated care.


Do you have a specific plan to reform the current Social Security system? If so, what are the major provisions?
Senator Clinton:

I believe that Social Security is a solemn promise to our seniors, and I am committed to keeping that promise. I am proud to have fought President Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security. In my administration, privatization will be a complete non-starter. It is the single greatest domestic program in our history, and we have to protect it.

I have a clear, straightforward plan to keep Social Security strong for future generations. First, I will restore fiscal responsibility in Washington. That will give us the kinds of options we had in the late 1990s, when we had a plan to keep Social Security solvent until 2055. Second, I will address the long-term challenges facing Social Security through a bipartisan process, through which we should consider a range of options to strengthen the program without hurting seniors or middle-class families. Finally, I believe we need to look beyond fixing Social Security to tackle the crisis of poor retirement savings in this country. That is why I proposed an American Retirement Plan that would give tens of millions of families a matching tax cut of up to S1,000 to help them save for retirement outside Social Security
Senator Obama:

As someone who was largely raised by my grandparents, I recognize that Social Security is indispensable to workers and seniors, and it is probably the most important and most successful programs that our country has ever created. I remain committed to making sure Social Security is solvent and viable for the American people, now and in the future.

The underlying Social Security system remains strong, but the projected long-term cash flow of the program needs to be addressed. This is a real but manageable problem. But the longer we wait to solve the problem, the bigger it grows.

I will be honest with the American people about the long-term solvency of Social Security and the ways we can fix the problem. I believe that benefits should not be cut and the retirement age should not be raised. I also believe that privatization of Social Security, which I have long opposed, is not a valid option for us to consider because it tears the fabric of Social Security -- the idea of mutual responsibility -- by subjecting a secure retirement to the whims of the market, and that is not an acceptable way to strengthen this program. I believe that the first place to look for ways to strengthen Social Security is the payroll tax system. Currently, the Social Security payroll tax applies to only the first $97,500 a worker makes. I support increasing the maximum amount of earnings covered by Social Security and I will work with Congress and the American people to choose a payroll tax reform package that will keep Social Security completely solvent for at least the next half century.


Do you have specific plans to reauthorize or reform the current Medicare, Medicaid or S-CHIP programs? If so, what are the major provisions?
Senator Clinton:

When I am President, I will strengthen SCHIP and Medicaid to cover more people through my American Health Choices Plan. And I will continue to work to ensure that all Medicare beneficiaries receive the assistance they need. Specifically, I will work to help those who fall into the "doughnut hole" and can't afford the prescription drugs they need. I will also fight to get drug costs under control.

I have a 30-year record of fighting to improve our health care system. In Arkansas, I led the state's rural health committee. As First Lady, I helped create SCHIP, which covers six million children today, and created the Vaccines for Children program, which increased the number of children receiving their vaccinations to 90 percent. As Senator, I have worked to protect S CHIP and to expand access to more low-income children. I have also worked to strengthen Medicare and have been a vocal advocate for fixing the problems with the Medicare prescription drug program.
Senator Obama:

I have long supported efforts to expand the Medicaid and SCHIP programs, and reform these programs to ensure that beneficiaries receive high-quality care. In the Illinois State Senate, I expanded Illinois' version of SCHIP to cover 150,000 children and parents. I have continually opposed President Bush's efforts to undermine these programs.

My universal health care reform plan will expand eligibility for Medicaid and SCHIP, and my health care quality initiatives will place a greater emphasis on prevention, chronic disease management and other measures that have been proven to improve patient health outcomes.


If elected President, what if anything would you do to reduce or eliminate the disparities that currently exist in the health care problems that affect racial and ethnic minorities in the United States?

Senator Clinton:

While many factors contribute to the disparities in health outcomes, no factor matters more than access to health insurance. That's why my plan, which offers universal health care, will be vital to closing the disturbing racial and ethnic health disparities that are pervasive throughout our health care system.

In addition, my plan requires the development and testing of quality measures for use by doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other providers targeted at eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health care. It directs the Depaitinent of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a uniform reporting format for the collection of quality information on race and ethnicity, so that we can know the full extent of the problem and measure our progress in addressing it. It provides $50 million in federal funding for the development of culturally and linguistically competent clinical care programs, to ensure that our healthcare providers can communicate with their patients and have training and skills to fully understand and respect cultural differences in the patients they serve. My plan addresses diversity and cultural competency in the healthcare workforce by providing opportunities and incentives to encourage greater diversity in our health care workforce through recruitment initiatives, scholarships and loan-forgiveness programs.
Senator Obama:

Tackling minority health disparities is a top priority for me. My universal health care plan expands coverage to all Americans, addressing a major cause of health disparities for minorities; health insurance coverage. My plan promotes research into combating health care disparities, conducts educational and health outreach to minorities, increases the diversity of healthcare professionals, and improves the delivery of health care to minorities. Finally, my plan also requires health providers to inform the public about disparities and take steps to reduce those disparities. In the U.S. Senate, I helped write the Kennedy-Cochran-Obama Minority Health Improvement and Health Disparity Elimination Act. This bill puts new emphasis on disparity research by directing the Department of Health and Human Services to collect and report health care data by race and ethnicity, as well as geographic and socioeconomic status and level of health literacy.


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