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Bush, Kerry spar on science, health care
Sen. John Kerry on Thursday accused President Bush of slowing scientific advancement after earning a special endorsement from the widow of actor Christopher Reeve, while Bush criticized his rival on health care and medical liability reform in Pennsylvania.
"The American people deserve a president who understands that when America invests in science and technology, we can build a stronger economy and create jobs for the 21st century," Kerry said during a campaign rally. "But George Bush has literally ... turned his back on the spirit of exploration and discovery."
Reeve's widow, Dana, said her family has been grieving privately since her husband died Oct. 10. "My inclination would be to remain private for a good long while," she said. "But I came here today in support of John Kerry because this is so important. This is what Chris wanted."
Bush told hundreds of supporters in an area outside Philadelphia that Kerry's prescription for health care is "bigger government with higher costs." Some recent polls show Kerry with a slight advantage in Pennsylvania.
The number of uninsured Americans increased by 5 million over the past four years and the government announced last month that Medicare premiums will increase in January by a record amount in dollar terms of $11.60 per month.
Bush said medical decisions should be made by doctors and patients. However, the Medicare law he signed will, by the administration's own estimate, move roughly 9 million more people into Medicare HMOs and other managed care plans.
Kerry's plan would build on the existing employer-based health care system by offering tax breaks to businesses to offer health care. The Democrat would open up the federal employee health benefits program to all Americans, enabling them to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress get. The proposal also would put in place a drug prescription plan that permits Medicare to negotiate better drug prices for senior citizens.
Reeve had lived as a paraplegic since a riding accident in 1995. He had become an advocate for medical research and believed studying embryonic stem cells might unlock lifesaving cures and treatments, Dana Reeve said.
"His heart was full of hope, and he imagined living in a world where politics would never get in the way of hope," she said.
The Kerry campaign said Dana Reeve approached the Massachusetts senator about making what probably would be her only campaign appearance. Another Kerry supporter, former Vice President Al Gore, has been asked to campaign this weekend in Florida, where he is seen as a symbol of an election many Democrats believe the GOP stole from them.
In his remarks at the rally, Kerry said scientific innovation needs political support and that Bush, beholden to special interests, refuses to make investments that benefited everyone.
"On the other hand, he has an extreme political agenda that slows instead of advances science," Kerry said.
In addition to stem cell research, Kerry wants to invest in manufacturing and biotechnology, spur automobile innovations and urge students to go into science with education benefits.
On the issue of lawsuits against doctors, the president said Kerry has voted 10 times in his Senate career against reforms in the area of medical liability.
"The effects of the litigation culture are real in Pennsylvania ... medical malpractice premiums are soaring," Bush said.
The Bush campaign says limiting medical malpractice awards could save $60 billion to $108 billion annually in health care costs. The Kerry campaign rejects Bush's numbers and favors limits on medical malpractice premium increases, sanctions for frivolous lawsuits, and nonbinding mediation in all states.
Kerry says more than half the states already cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.