Healthy experiences for would-be presidents…

So the big news is the election tomorrow.

While we don’t endorse candidates, we’ve commented extensively on the presidential candidates and their various health care policy platforms.

What I am impressed by is how much experience the candidates have with health policy and health reform.

Senator Clinton clearly knows the issue inside and out, from the experience in 1993-4. While there is a debate whether the mistakes of the 1993 Clinton effort were hers or her husband’s, it’s clear she knows the policy, the politics, and has learned lessons from her previous effort. She kept her interest in health policy issues in the U.S. Senate, and the fact that she has made it a priority despite her previous failed attempt suggests a perseverance that is welcome for such an important fight.

Senator Obama was one of the “go-to” legislators on health policy for my consumer advocate colleagues in the Illinois legislature. He was a leader on issues around the expansions of the Illinois version of SCHIP. When the majority changed to his party, he became the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and from there he pushed through the Health Care Justice Act, which started the process to get universal coverage in Illinois–a process that is roughly in the same place as California’s effort (regrouping but continuing). He knows the policy and politics of these issues as well. Having been on the front lines of state health policy, he is likely to be very sympathetic to the specific health needs of a large, diverse state like California.

While they have done less to prioritize health issues, even the Republican candidates have some experience on the issue.

Let me be clear: they have pur forward several proposals that consumer advocates oppose–one trope that most of them endorse is to eviscerate state consumer protections, by allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines. (How would you like to complain to the Nebraska Department of Insurance if you were denied care?) While the Democrats want to regulate insurers so they can’t deny coverage to those with “pre-existing conditions,” the Republicans explicitly reject such oversight.

But the Republican presidential candidates have shown flashes of moderation in support of health reforms, even in areas that have been opposed by President Bush, or the Republican legislative caucuses in Sacramento. Senator McCain supported the long-stalled HMO Patients’ Bill of Rights. Governor Romney signed the Massachusetts health reform, including the major public program expansions that now is covering half the uninsured. (He vetoed elements, that by agreement with the Legislature, were overridden.) Governor Huckabee was involved in Arkansas’ early expansion of child health care, before SCHIP was created.

So whatever the outcome, it’s clear is that the next President of the United States will have more direct experience with health care policy issues than the current occupant. We’ll find out more next week…

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

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