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Corinne Ramey

Where Do the Candidates Stand on Health Care? Fred Thompson

Mention the phrase "health care" to the average middle-class American and you usually get a response about fear of being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, rising insurance premiums, and expensive prescription drugs. But ask presidential candidate Fred Thompson and you get a whole different perspective.

Thompson has plenty of good things to say about the current state of America's health care system. "Americans have the best health care in the world," reads his website. When announcing his candidacy in September of 2006 he said, "We have the best health care in the world but we are paying more than we should for it." And on ABC News Radio Thompson said, "We're being told that government bureaucrats can take over our entire medical industry--which by the way is the best and most complex in the world--and make it better."

The best health care in the world? I know that Thompson's an ex-actor, but isn't that just a little out of touch with reality? Let's take a look at what the statistics say about this one.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States currently spends approximately 15% of its GDP on health care, which is more than any other nation in the world. But despite all that spending, a good portion of the U.S. population just isn't getting the necessary medical coverage. According to a report issued by Families USA, over one third of Americans under the age of 65 have gone without insurance for some or all of the past two years. The report reads:

"The analysis found that 89.6 million people under the age of 65 were uninsured for some or all of that two-year period. This constitutes more than one out of every three non-elderly Americans. That also represents an increase of 17 million uninsured Americans from 1999-2000 to 2006-2007."

But let's still give Thompson the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's talking about quality of care, and not so worried about paying those health care bills. After all, in the National Review Online he did write, "You might have to deal with creditors after you go to the emergency ward in America, but no one is denied medical care here."

But still, the WHO doesn't agree. In 2000, the WHO ranked the health care systems of 191 member countries, and -- drumroll, please -- do you think that the United States came out on top?

Unfortunately, no. France got first place, followed by Italy, Spain, Oman, Austria, and Japan. You have to keep reading down the list for a while until you get to the United States, which checks in at a somewhat dismal 37th place. The U.S. doesn't fare much better in the ranking of overall level of health, scoring 72nd place. This puts us smack between Argentina and Bhutan, neither of which spends even close to the amount that we do.

So, Fred, do you still think we have the best health care in the world?

Although Thompson hasn't outlined a health care plan that comes even close to being as comprehensive as that of some of the other candidates, he has a few talking points on his website. He is against a "Washington-controlled program," saying that "Those who propose a one-size-fits-all Washington-controlled program ignore the cost, inefficiency, and inadequate care that such a system offers." He also proposes a system that "Increases competition and consumer choice while streamlining regulations through free-market solutions," but is vague about the details of such a plan. Thompson's obviously against universal care, and prefers market based health care plans. But how exactly will he go about making such a plan affordable and able to cover the 47 million Americans who are currently uninsured?

In the absence of a concrete health care proposal, perhaps we can guess a bit about what Thompson's plan would be like by examining his voting record. Thompson voted no on the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act in 2002, no on allowing patients to sue HMOs in state and federal courts in 2001, and no on providing prescription drugs through Medicare in 2000. In 1996 he voted no on medical savings accounts and voted yes on a 1999 amendment that would prohibit the self-employed from deducting the cost of health insurance on their federal taxes.

From his voting record, it seems that Thompson wouldn't do much to improve health care for the American middle class.

Ironically, 29% of people in a Nevada poll said that they were familiar with Thompson's health care plan. What? The only problem with the poll is that he doesn't really have one...

Corinne Ramey: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 7:02 AM, Dec 03, 2007 in Health Care
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