Dean’s Criticism of Gephardt’s Universal Proposal-A Correction and Update
In the spirit of accuracy and fairness, I need to correct my earlier criticism of Howard Dean regarding the Gephardt universal health care proposal. Contrary to what I said earlier about Dean and his position on the issue, Dean’s official website reveals that he has come out with his own plan for universal health care, contrary to the USA Today story:
Guaranteeing coverage to all Americans will involve a mix of state and federal programs, as well as the existing private sector. Similar to our program in Vermont, states should be required to guarantee coverage for all children under age 23. In return, the federal government should assume responsibility for drug and acute medical care for Americans over age 65. In addition, older Americans deserve a pharmacy benefit under Medicare - an unaffordable impossibility under the current fiscal policies of President Bush. With a pharmaceutical package, Medicare becomes a decent insurance program. Finally, to cover those between the ages of 23 and 65, we should use the present employer-based system with refundable tax credits and federal subsidies to cover low- and moderate-income Americans who lack insurance.
Therefore I stand corrected on my earlier comment regarding his lack of a plan similar to Gephardt’s. However, I remain concerned about the willingness by Dean to openly trash fellow Democrats on their positions.
As for other sources for comments by Dean on the Gephardt proposal, I found no official remarks from the campaign on this issue on the website. But I did find these other comments from Dean on Gephardt’s plan:
"The Gephardt proposal is a political document for a problem that needs a practical solution," said Howard Dean, who blasted Gephardt for failing to accomplishing that goal during his 25 years in office and for supporting "huge tax cuts...that make his own health care plan unworkable.
"I'm the only candidate who has actually provided nearly universal health care to the people of my state," Dean concluded.
Yet in an appearance tonight in Houston before the nation’s black mayors, Dean touted his own plan (with Gephardt in attendance) while stating that it would cost half of Gephardt’s plan:
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a physician, also has called for repeal of the tax cuts to cover health care but says his plan would cost half as much as Gephardt's. Dean said his health care plan would guarantee insurance for all Americans under 25, add prescription benefits to Medicare and help small businesses and self-employed workers cover health care costs.
"You can do this for half the president's tax cut," Dean said. "It's not a Cadillac. Everyone has to pay something. But it'll work."
Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic notes a basic inconsistency between Gephardt’s proposal yesterday and his fear of big ideas during the 2000 campaign. But he also notes that Gephardt has put Dean on the defensive over his proposal. And Paul Krugman feels it is a good debate to have, even though he figures that Gephardt’s proposal will never become law.
Thomas Oliphant of the Boston Globe gives both Gephardt and Dean kudos for talking about kitchen table issues in this campaign.
And the New York Times has a response from Dean that is more in the context of a “Washington outsider:”
"What has Congressman Gephardt in his 25 years in office — along with the other candidates running for president — ever successfully accomplished in all their time in Washington toward solving this problem?" Dr. Dean asked.
And the Washington Post tomorrow repeats Dean’s “pie in the sky” criticism of Gephardt’s proposal.
Again, my apologies to Dean supporters for stating that he did not have his own plan out yet; he does, maybe not with the detail of the Gephardt proposal, but Dean has been out there on the issue first.
My main concern about pointed criticisms from Dean against other Democratic candidates still stands. It was one thing for Bill Bradley to go after Gore in 2000 when Gore had the benefits of incumbency and a positive record to defend himself (even if he subsequently squandered it). It is another thing for a gaggle of nine candidates to sink into a circular firing squad when they already are up against Karl Rove and the corporate media and ATM.
Please guys, focus your sights on the true opponent, not each other.