5 websites to track presidential candidates’ healthcare positions

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While health reform isn’t a particularly big issue in the Republican primaries, it figures to take on a much more prominent role in the general election.

President Obama will have no choice but to lay out clear reasons why he believes his controversial health reform package — one of the signature achievements of his presidency — will benefit Americans. The GOP will no doubt continue to label the much-hated ObamaCare (by conservatives, at least) as big-government socialism gone awry.

Then there’s likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney. He has no choice but to distance his own RomneyCare health reform law from his time as the governor of Massachusetts as being fundamentally different from Obama’s approach, even though anyone who’s been paying attention knows they’re remarkably similar. (Romney’s now-chief rival for the nomination, Rick Santorum, would obviously have an easier time than Romney in contrasting himself with Obama on healthcare, but faces his own problems with female voters over contraception.)


So where’s a concerned voter to turn to make sense of all the hype, spin and half-truths that will spew from both major parties about health policy as we approach November’s election? The following five sites are a good place to start.

Wonkblog: Established by the Washington Post’s always-insightful Ezra Klein, Wonkblog typically eschews breaking news for something that’s probably more valuable: explaining the significance of breaking news and putting it in context. Recent posts have discussed why Obama relishes a fight with the GOP over contraception and the real difference between the individual mandates in ObamaCare and RomneyCare: “a 56 percent actuarial value versus a 60 percent actuarial value, for those who want to get wonky about it.”

Healthwatch: As the health policy blog from Congressional newspaper The Hill, HealthWatch is on top of the health policy goings on in Washington, D.C., like few others. While many of these D.C.-centric issues don’t directly involve Obama or the GOP nominees, you can be sure the candidates and incumbent will be forced to stake out positions on many of them. HealthWatch has recently covered medical device user fees, private Medicare plans and Santorum’s seemingly endless (and smart) attempts to tie Romney and Obama together on healthcare.

Kaiser Health News: Among U.S. news outlets, few seem to cover as much breadth as Kaiser when it comes to health policy. In contrast to most of the blogs on this list, Kaiser typically takes a more traditional approach to healthcare journalism. That means the site often excels at deep-dive articles that offer several perspectives. A story on Romney’s healthcare plan in Massachusetts, subtitled “Abject failure or work in progress?” is an excellent recent example.

The Incidental Economist: Created by health economist Austin Frakt, this blog features perspectives on the U.S. healthcare system of several other academics and researchers. Especially valuable is a seven-part series the blog dedicates to meme-busting, or taking down pervasive falsehoods that dominate the healthcare debate. Highlights include posts on why tort reform won’t control costs and why selling insurance across state lines won’t lower health costs.

Healthcare Policy and Market Place Review: Written by celebrated (by C. Everett Koop and John McLaughlin, apparently) former insurance executive Bob Laszewski, this blog is good for a more business-friendly and conservative perspective than the others on this list. A recent post that touches on how insurance companies will react to the Obama administration’s “clumsy attempt” to walk back the controversy over insurance coverage for contraception by religious organizations showcases Laszewski at his best.

[Photo from flickr user Ken_Mayer]


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