Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Healthcare and the 2008 Presidential Campaign

The 2004 American Presidential campaign focused primarily (if not exclusively) on the issue of winning the war on terror. Could the upcoming election in 2008 actually focus on an issue that (1) has a real significant impact on the life prospects of every single American AND (2) is an issue the government could successfully make a meaning (positive) difference to?

This story in The Boston Globe (registration needed) gives hope that the answer to both questions could be "Yes!". It appears that healthcare, in particular preventative care, is building steam as a priority issue among potential contenders for the White House. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

One presidential candidate wants to give earned days off to federal workers who exercise regularly and do not smoke, while another would press schools to ban junk food. Another candidate plans to reward people who undergo regular physicals and engage in healthy lifestyles with discounts in their health insurance premiums.

Mike Huckabee, former Republican governor from Arkansas, has led the charge for giving financial incentives -- including tax breaks and paid days off -- as rewards for healthy behavior.

....Edwards, the only major party candidate so far to offer a detailed healthcare plan, wants to make health insurance mandatory nationwide, as Massachusetts has done for its residents.

But unlike in previous campaigns when candidates have focused almost entirely on the uninsured, the early presidential candidates are talking about promoting wellness as a way to avoid the high costs of treating cancers, heart disease, and other ailments.

"I think you're going to see a prevention component of virtually every candidate's healthcare reform" plan, said Drew Altman , president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a healthcare advocacy group. But he said the idea could not take the place of expanding health insurance coverage and controlling costs on a large scale.

"Nobody can pretend we can cover 47 million uninsured people without a huge outlay of money to do it," Altman said.

Despite the disagreement about the finer details of the particular proposals being put forth by Democrats and Republicans, it is truly encouraging to think that serious deliberation and debate of this domestic issue could return to the centre stage of American politics. Current trends in obesity threaten to reduce the life expectancy in the United States (see here). So this is an issue Americans cannot afford to ignore.