2012 U.S. Senate Candidates on Healthcare

Tommy Thompson

Republican candidate

Former Wisconsin Gov. and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson says his immediate priority, providing he’s elected to the Senate, would be to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and start over from a clean slate.

Still, Thompson believes something must be done to reform the U.S.’s healthcare system and bring costs down for patients and providers.

“Are we going to follow a path of more taxation and more regulated healthcare, or are we going to follow a path of less taxes and less regulation?” said Thompson, in an interview with the Pulse.

In addition to streamlining regulations for the healthcare industry, Thompson says his plan would focus on rewarding quality medical care that discourages repeat visits to doctors and hospitals, changing the litigation system so doctors don’t have to practice defensive medicine, and encouraging people to place an emphasis on wellness.

“[That emphasis on prevention and wellness] came out of the Department of Health and Human Services when I was secretary,” said Thompson. “I’d be putting that back in, but doing it at the state level rather than nationally.”

A major difference between the PPACA and a Thompson-supported reform plan would be the ability of states to opt out of creating federally-funded pools for high-risk insurees, like those with pre-existing conditions. Under the PPACA, the national government has created a temporary high-risk pool that will eventually transition into the mandatory state-run health insurance exchanges that become operational in 2014.

Thompson also supports the changes to Medicare in Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s proposed federal budget, which would eventually transform the program from a government-run health insurance program into a program which provides subsidies for seniors to purchase their own private insurance.

Tammy Baldwin

Democratic candidate

Tammy Baldwin is the current U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District. Baldwin is a proponent of keeping the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in place and was one of the authors of the amendment that allowed children to stay on their parents’ insurance up to age 26.

“I don’t believe it makes sense to start over because that means allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to Wisconsin children with pre-existing conditions and charge women 50 percent more than men for health care coverage. It also means stripping young people off their parents’ health insurance plans, as well as increasing prescription drug costs and repealing free preventive care for Wisconsin seniors,” said Baldwin in an email to the Pulse.

One of the things Baldwin believes should be added into the PPACA is a “public option,” which would allow people to opt into a government-run insurance program rather than purchase private insurance. She has also advocated a single-payer system which would have all Americans covered by government insurance.

Baldwin says the Ryan budget’s changes to Medicare simply shift medical costs to seniors, and she says its cuts to Medicaid should also be taken into account.

“Between 2013 and 2022, Medicaid would be cut by nearly $1.4 trillion,” said Baldwin. “These cuts would have devastating impacts on the poor, children and seniors. Between one-third and half of a state’s Medicaid dollars are spent on caring for seniors and disabled individuals’ nursing home care.

Baldwin has introduced a bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper prescription drug prices, reversing a policy enacted during Tommy Thompson’s time as Secretary of Health and Human Services.