With the presidential election next week, five UR professors in the fields of economics, political science and preventive medicine shared their views toward President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry’s health care platforms in the Gowen Room on Oct. 26.The panel discussion titled, “A Presidential Health Care Platform,” was sponsored by the Charles Drew Pre-Health Society, Undergraduate History Council and Delta Upsilon fraternity. The panel drew a moderately large crowd. Panelists included professor of history and community and preventive medicine Theodore Brown, Provost Charles Phelps, professors of community and preventive medicine Kevin Hart and Bruce Friedman and Dean of Graduate Studies and professor of political science Bruce Jacobs.Friedman introduced basic facts about both candidates’ health care plans, such as tax credits for low-income people, health savings accounts, Association Health Plans, Congressional Health Plan, expansion on public coverage, etc.”[President Bush’s] plan is focused more toward upper income people,” Friedman said. “But Senator Kerry’s plan is focused more toward low-income people.”Phelps added by saying that Bush’s plans deal with market shares, which is a conservative Republican approach.”His emphasis on health savings account creates protection against the catastrophic financial crisis,” Phelps said.Phelps also mentioned that Bush’s approach to dealing with small companies by setting up health savings accounts is not a bad idea.On the other hand, Kerry’s proposals included Congressional Health Plans and giving more rights to patients.”Congressional Health Plans cover people who basically lost the job or being unemployed,” Friedman said. “The plan will cover people between jobs whose normal income is below 300 percent of the poverty level, which will give them 75 percent tax credit,” Friedman said. Kerry’s proposal also includes giving each state $5 billion in bonuses to increase children’s enrollment in insurance plans, and eventually hopes to expand Medicaid to cover all adults under the poverty level. Then Phelps switched to the issue of prescription drugs. “Prescription drugs are becoming much more expensive and causing more financial burdens,” he said.He said that in the near future, prescription drugs could cost over $10,000, but they will be able to cure diseases that required surgeries before. To avoid rapid price increases of prescription drugs, Phelps supported Kerry’s plan of generating competition among drug companies and let the drug prices be determined by the market power.Likewise, Hart commented on the issue of continuing rise of health care cost and the medical liability system. When malpractice is committed by physicians, responsible hospitals must pay patients their economical damages, which include the cost of the medical care that patients receive and pay for patients’ salaries while they are in the hospital.And for the non-economical damages, Bush suggested that hospitals pay patients $250,000 while Kerry suggested screening panels.Screening panels give sanctions against plaintiffs and lawyers. Thirty-one states adopted the screening panels, but only 20 states still have them because it is costly and time-consuming to process malpractice lawsuits.Hart said medication errors, such as giving patients wrong dosages of medicine, cause over 7,000 deaths annually.”Politicians are ignoring fruitful areas that they should look into more,” Hart said. However, both candidates’ plans will require substantial federal budget increases due to the health care platforms. Under Bush’s plan, the federal budget will increase by $228 billion. Kerry’s plan increases it by $1.25 trillion. “[It is] not a happy message,” Jacobs said, referring to what future generations of Americans have to face as a result of increases in the federal budget.According to Jacobs, when the baby boomers’ generation retires from the work force around the year 2010, taxpayers, including current college students, will have to pay more taxes than now to support Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for senor citizens and people living in poverty.Today’s tax burden is around 18 to 22 percent of GDP. “This is what we are willing to tax [ourselves] with,” Jacobs said. A large increase may be inevitable. “Some of my colleagues said that neither of these plans will be passed by the Congress,” Friedman said.Senior Amish Tilara said that the panel discussion was very informative and interesting to see the health care platforms from different angles such as from financial or legal perspectives. At the end, Jacobs quoted Herb Stein, a chief economist of Nixon’s administration, “Things that are unsustainable tend to end.”Aoyama can be reached atyaoyama@campustimes.org.

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