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Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

Healthline Analysis: Presidential Candidates & Their Health Care Plans - Obama

I will do my best over the coming weeks and months to provide an unbiased analysis of the presidential candidates' positions on health care. Here goes with my first installment with the Democratic front runner, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois (elected 2004). Sen. Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991 and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago before winning a seat in the state senate. In May 2007 he published a 15 page Plan for a Healthy America: Lowering health care costs and ensuring affordable, high quality health care for all.

Obama proposes building on the strengths of our existing program and tackling its weaknesses through partnerships among state and federal governments, employers, individuals and providers.
  1. Health Care for All: Universal Coverage by 2012
    • Obama proposes a new public insurance program to cover people who are not covered by Medicare, SCHIP or their employers.
    • Obama proposes creating a National Insurance Exchange for those who want to purchase insurance directly
    • Obama proposes mandating coverage for all children
    • No one will be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions or illness
    • Obama proposes that the benefits package mirror that received by members of Congress, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Package (FEHBP) [includes preventive care, mental health, maternity, disease management]
  2. Improve Quality and Efficiency while reducing Costs
    • Reducing costs of catastrophic illnesses to employers and employees
    • 75% every health care dollar is spent on chronic health conditions: support disease management programs
    • Coordinate and integrate care
    • Require transparency about costs and quality
    • Promote safety and excellence
    • Tackle disparities in health care
    • Reform medical malpractice
    • Invest in Health IT and EHR
    • Increase competition in the insurance and drug industries to reduce costs
  3. Strengthen Public Health: Promote Prevention
    • Protect and promote healthy behaviors at the federal, state, community, school, employer and family level
Obama's plan differs from the two other leading Democratic candidates in that it is not mandatory for adults - only children. He does not want to force people to break the law over an economic choice. Obama has been outspoken about his support for military troops despite the fact he himself has never served. He has decried the fact that:
      • veterans are 7 x more likely than the general population to be homeless
      • proposed that all returning troops be screened for PTSD
Obama supports a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy and supports relaxing restrictions on federal financing of embryonic stem cell research. On the global health front, he traveled to his father's native country of Kenya in 2006 and had an HIV/AIDS test to encourage others to be tested. He supports expanded HIV/AIDS research, treatment and access to anti-retroviral medications. Poverty is a major factor in public health and Obama cosponsored the 2005 Multilateral Debt Relief Act.

According to an analysis by The Commonwealth Fund: A Private Foundation Working Toward a High Performing Health Care System, of the three top Democratic candidates, Obama's plan requires the least in expenditures of new revenue:
        • Obama: $60 billion
        • Edwards, Clinton: $110 billion
A Boston Globe Editorial states that the other two candidates estimates for the costs of insuring 47 million uninsured is "more realistic". The Commonwealth Fund called Obama's plan "comprehensive and multi-pronged." The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that health care is one of the top 5 concerns Americans want to know about from the presidential hopefuls.

Thank you Senator Obama for use of photo Veteran's Speech 4/07 Iowa.
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About the Author

The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.