Caucus night!

So Obama and Huckabee had a good day in Iowa. What’s the news for health care?

Well, as those of us in California face a budget crisis with major health cuts looming, it’s interesting to note that the winner of the Republican caucus was a Governor who saw fit to raise taxes when necessary to invest in his state, and support some coverage expansions for children and parents in Arkansas. He has quite a conservative record–and much I would disagree with–but this particular point is something that legislative Republicans in California might want to take a look at.

On the Democratic side, it was clear that the health care was one of the top three issues, with Iraq and the economy. Edwards spent a significant chunk of his speech tonight talking about the uninsured and those denied care by insurers, and deserves credit for coming out first with a broad and comprehensive health reform plan, and setting a benchmark for the field. In his memorable speech, Obama started his issue list with a commitment to health care, and his history in Illinois. And Clinton’s commitment is well known. In the end, the candidates had very similar proposals, so there’s a little for voters to distinguish on specific plans. And they roughly split the voting public on the question of who would do the best in terms of health care.

But they did have a difference in what they emphasized. I think Obama had a slight edge (34%) to Clinton (30%) not because of the substance of the proposal (which are very similar), but what they emphasized. Clinton attacked Obama on not having an individual mandate and not being “universal” enough, Obama responded not by saying he’s against a mandate, but by emphasizing the aspects of his plan that will help people get coverage, especially with regard to affordability.

It goes to my earlier point about the national health reform debate: while health reformers should be upfront about what is need to achieve health reform, we need to focus on the actual help that any reform will provide voters. Rather than get lost in philosophical debates, we need to emphasize what any plan will actually do to make coverage more available, affordable, and administratively simple.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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