TOPICS > Politics

On the Issues

June 23, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT


GWEN IFILL: The two leading presidential candidates were out on the campaign trail again today. President Bush in Pennsylvania and Senator John Kerry in California. Kwame Holman has our report.

SPOESMAN: Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States of America! Greatest country in the world!

KWAME HOLMAN: President Bush went to a largely African-American Baptist church in Philadelphia today, to tout increased funding for the global fight against HIV and AIDS.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: These grants will provide more antiretroviral treatments and promote prevention efforts, care for children who lost their parents to AIDS. There’s a lot of orphans around the continent of Africa. You’ve got 14- and 15-year-old kids raising their brothers and sisters. So part of the effort is to provide love and hope for these brave young kids who have been handed an incredibly tough burden, an awesome burden. We want to help build and equip hospitals and clinics. In other words, we want the infrastructure to be there. Part of the money goes to make sure there’s an infrastructure. I mean, we really don’t care here in America if it takes a bicycle or a moped to get anti-retrovirals out of these big cities, but that’s what we’re going to do. And part of the challenge we face is to help poor countries have the capacity to absorb the drugs and compassion of America. That’s one of our challenges.

KWAME HOLMAN: Mr. Bush announced Vietnam will be the 15th country, and the first outside Africa and the Caribbean, to receive a grant from the government’s planned $15 billion fund to fight AIDS.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The reason why the decision was made is because the nation has experienced a rapid rise in HIV infections, rapid rise, especially among the young. And Vietnam is cooperative and wants help. In other words, they recognize they have a problem, which, by the way, is an important part of battling the pandemic. People have got to say, “I’ve got a problem; come and help us.” It’s hard in certain countries that people say, “we don’t have a problem.” You know, in denial. In the meantime, people are dying. Part of diplomacy, by the way… good diplomacy says to leaders, “I think you need to listen to the truth, and the truth will set you free and help people survive.” And so therefore, we’re sending up to the congress the notification that Vietnam is now going to receive… be a part of the now 15 nation focus, and we want the Vietnamese to hear, together we’ll fight the disease. You got a friend in America.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president called for a change in the way AIDS funds are allocated for low- income HIV and AIDS victims, under a program known as the Ryan White Care Act.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We need to change the way that money under the Ryan White Care Act is provided to caregivers– caregivers and states and communities. Today funding decisions are made according to a rigid geographical formula that takes too little account of the most urgent needs. In other words, this… you can’t set priorities is what that means. In some areas of the country… countries, there are more severe cases. There are particular problems among minority women. There are fewer resources to handle its caseload. In those cases, Tommy Thompson, the secretary of Health and Human Services, should have the flexibility to cut through the red tape and get the money quickly to where it is needed. That’s what we’re going to propose to the Congress. Let us set priorities and make sure the resources fund those priorities. That makes sense, with taxpayers’ monies, it seems like to me.

KWAME HOLMAN: Pennsylvania is expected to be a key toss-up state in the fall, and Mr. Bush has visited it more than two dozen times as president. Meanwhile, Democratic candidate John Kerry was talking about the need to expand health care coverage at a service employees’ union convention in San Francisco. He criticized Monday’s Supreme Court decision that blocked patients from suing their HMO’s for denying coverage.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: If an HMO makes a decision to deny you the care that you need, and you’re hurt by that decision, then the only thing your HMO is responsible for is the cost of the benefit of the test that they provided you, not the harm. Think about that for a minute. You’re a woman who requests a mammogram to check for breast cancer, but you’re denied the test. And you don’t find out until later when the breast cancer is further along and life threatening what the situation is. Could you then hold the HMO account for their negligence? No. Could you demand that they cover the long-term pain and suffering that’s caused as a result of their unwillingness to do the test? No. Could you demand justice that will ensure that they change their ways so that no one else in America is affected by the same fate? No. Not under their approach, not under their definition of how you care for people in America. Well, we’re going to change that. We’re going to win… we’re going to change that. It’s time that you are not asked to bear the brunt of health care costs and bargaining.

I don’t have to tell you. Everybody understands there is a health care crisis. 43 million Americans don’t have any health care. Four million Americans have lost their health care under George Bush. The only thing he talks about is a savings plan, which is obviously good for those people who have enough money to be able to save something, which is almost nobody in the 98 percent of average Americans. You are the people who deliver this care as well as try to receive it.

You are the nurses. You see the patients who pass up the care they need because it means that it’s a bill that they can’t pay. You work with the people who are struggling to be able to pay a prescription drug bill and have to choose between the food, the heat and the rent. You are the people who work too many hours for too little pay in emergency rooms that are overcrowded and understaffed. You are the families who put your jobs on the line so that your child’s checkup doesn’t empty the family’s checkbook. And you know the pain better than anybody that it causes when these folks in Washington choose tax breaks for billionaires who don’t need them over health care for the middle class who can’t get by without it. We’re going to change that. Four years and four million Americans later, this administration still has absolutely no plan to solve the health care crisis.

President Bush doesn’t even talk about it. I do have a plan. My plan will extend quality health care coverage to 96.5 percent of all Americans within the first three years of our passing it. And to 99 percent of all children immediately…. ( applause ) and you know what we are going to do? We are going to do something that’s called fair. We are going to do something called common sense. It is probably going to surprise a lot of Americans because there hasn’t been a lot of it around lately. We are going to let you… we are going to let every American that wants to buy into the same health care plan that members of Congress give themselves.

KWAME HOLMAN: Kerry said Senate Republicans yesterday denied him a chance to vote for a veterans health care measure.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: Cancelled everything for the day and went back to Washington to vote but these people are so petty, so sad, so political, that they all could do is spend the whole day finding the way not to let John Kerry vote. The result is we didn’t get to, but I got news for them. When you help me become president of the United States, you’re going to give me a veto pen, and with that veto pen, we are going to stand up for the rights of Americans to vote, rights of Americans to have health care; the rights of Americans to be able to have the agenda of our country on the table.

KWAME HOLMAN: Kerry continues to campaign in California tomorrow, with an appearance in San Jose. President Bush departs for Europe later this week for EU and NATO meetings.