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Presidential Candidates and Their Views on Healthcare; Healthcare Very Important to Voters; Trying to Get Parents and Kids to Think Before They Eat; Men's Health

Aired June 9, 2007 - 08:30   ET


NGUYEN: Yours for just $1,650. You'd need a raise to buy it. Still not enough? Well, there's also a "Hello Kitty" computer mouse and a "Hello Kitty" mousepad to complete the ensemble.
HOLMES: Let me see you come in with that.


KRIS ANDERSSON, DIXIE LONGATE: All the different uses that I've found over my 5 1/2 years of using Tupperware. Because someone's going to look at a bowl and say, it's a bowl. Why do I need that? I got to show them.


HOLMES: OK, that's a little...

NGUYEN: A little frightening.

HOLMES: Well, in the history of theater, this may be the first show about Tupperware. The star of this one woman show is Dixie Longate, who is in real life a cross-dressing man and one of the top Tupperware salespersons in the U.S.

NGUYEN: Really? Well, the off Broadway production is also a real Tupperware party. All of this fantastic plastic is for sale after the show. Yes, wouldn't you imagine?

HOLMES: Would that be fun.

NGUYEN: I don't know.


NGUYEN: News of the weird.

HOLMES: Yes. All right. And coming up here in 30 minutes, latest on developing story this morning. How could a tear in the shuttle's thermal blanket affect its mission? We'll bring you the details there.

NGUYEN: But first, HOUSECALL with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, that starts right now.

SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Thanks, guys. This is HOUSECALL and we've got a lot of news for you this morning. So let's get right to it.

Two debates brought lots of opinion about fixing our straining healthcare system. I want you to hear straight from the candidates. Then we talk costs versus reality.

Then troubling findings about a popular diabetes drug. Later, one of the biggest health concerns for men. What you need to know about it as you age.

First up, though, healthcare may be one of the most important domestic issues facing the men and women that would be president. In a recent poll by CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation, 78 percent said healthcare was very or extremely important in their vote for president.

With good reason. Costs are staggering. And millions have no access to basic healthcare. Here now, a look at how the presidential candidates are trying to tackle these issues.


GUPTA (voice-over): Overcrowded emergency rooms, sky rocketing costs, millions of Americans with no insurance. It's a healthcare system in crisis.

MARK MEANEY, NATL. INST. FOR PATIENT RIGHTS: We pay the most. And we get the least of any other industrialized nation.

GUPTA: Groups like the National Institute for Patient Rights want a less fragmented healthcare system. Presidential candidates in both parties are writing their own prescriptions.

JOHN EDWARDS: This country's healthcare system is completely dysfunctional.

GUPTA: John Edwards' plan requires employers to help finance their workers' insurance and creates tax credits for the poor. Hillary Clinton's plan is similar, but she also wants insurance companies to cover preventative care, to help drive down premiums. She's also targeting chronic illness, beefing up programs already in place.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: From my perspective, we have to lower costs, improve quality, and cover everybody.

GUPTA: Barack Obama is promising healthcare for everyone, paid for by federal and private money.

BARACK OBAMA: My belief is that most families want healthcare, but they can't afford it.

GUPTA: That echoes what a Republican, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, started in his home state last year.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to have insurance for all of our citizens they can afford, that's theirs, that's portable. GUPTA: Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is emphasizing prevention and creating a state by state pool of coverage for those with no insurance.

TOMMY THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got to completely transform the healthcare system, make it a wellness system, and make it a prevention system.

GUPTA: Nearly all candidates' plans have three themes.

MEANEY: How do we go about lowering costs? How do we go about improving the quality of healthcare? And finally, how do we expand access to make affordable insurance available to all?


GUPTA: No small task. That's for sure. 45 million people lack health insurance in this country. And voters like you are demanding answers from candidates about what they plan on doing. Now in case you didn't get a chance to watch the debates, I wanted to boil it down and bring you the plans in their own words. We start with the Democrats.


EDWARDS: This country's healthcare system is completely dysfunctional. I'm proud of the fact that I was the first person to come out with a specific, truly universal healthcare plan.

I'd pay for it by getting rid of Bush's tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 a year. And I believe you cannot cover everybody in America, create a more efficient healthcare system, cover the cracks, you know, getting rid of things like preexisting conditions, and making sure that mental health is treated the same as physical health -- I don't think you can do all those things for nothing. That's not the truth.

OBAMA: My belief is that most families want healthcare, but they can't afford it. And so my emphasis is on driving down the costs, taking on the insurance companies, making sure that they are limited in the ability to extract profits and deny coverage, that we make sure the drug companies have to do what's right by their patients instead of simply hording their profits.

CLINTON: We have to lower costs, improve quality, and cover everybody.

What's important and what I learned in the previous effort is you've got to have the political will, a broad coalition of business and labor, doctors, nurses, hospitals, everybody standing firm when the inevitable attacks come from the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies that don't want to change the system.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My plan is mandatory. You do have everybody sharing -- the employer, the employee. You have the state and the federal government. Secondly, I believe that we can have a plan where, if you were satisfied with your healthcare plan, you can keep it. No new bureaucracies. But in addition to that, you focus on prevention.

EDWARDS: All the savings that Senator Clinton just talked about are in my plan. And they're in Senator Obama's plan. And both of us have recognized that it's going to cost significant money. And we've talked about how we're going to pay for it.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What Senator Clinton, Senator Edwards, Senator Obama are talking about, they're talking about letting the insurance companies stay in charge. They're talking about continuing a for profit healthcare system. And I think we need a president who's ready to challenge that. And I'm ready to challenge the insurance companies.


GUPTA: All right, lots of ideas there, as you could hear. But a lot of things in common as well. Working with individuals, working with businesses, and getting some federal government involvement. Now not long after the Democrats talked about healthcare, the Republican presidential candidates weighed in as well.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem with our health insurance is, it's government and employer dominated. People don't make individual choices.

It's your health. You should own your health insurance. We should be giving you a major tax deduction, $15,000 for a family, so you can buy your own health insurance. If you buy health insurance for $8,000 or $9,000, you'll save $5,000 or $6,000 in tax free money.

Then we should have a health savings account in which you could put some money aside to pay for your ordinary medical expenses. And the reality is that we need a free market. We need 100 million Americans making different decisions that will bring down the cost of health insurance. It will bring down the cost of prescription medicine. Free market principles are the only things that reduce costs and improve quality. Socialized medicine will ruin medicine in the United States.

THOMPSON: Number one, we spend $2 trillion on healthcare. That's 60 percent of the gross national product. 93 percent of the costs of healthcare goes into waiting until after you become sick. Only 7 percent of the money is used to keep you well in the first place. We've got to completely transform the healthcare system, make it a wellness system, and make it a prevention system.

Secondly, we have 125 million Americans that have one or more chronic illnesses. In order to change this, we have to educate the American people about tobacco, about diabetes, about cardiovascular, and about obesity. You do that, you'll be able to change healthcare. The third thing, 25 percent of Americans use two-thirds of the cost of healthcare. If you manage those diseases, you can reduce that down to 50 percent and save lots of money.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a big issue for this country. Every Democrat out there is talking about a form of socialized medicine, government takeover, massive tax increase. We have to stand up and not just talk about it.

I'm the guy who actually tackled this issue. We get all of our citizens insured. We get people that were uninsured with private health insurance. We have to stand up and say the market works. Personal responsibility works. We're going to have insurance for all of our citizens they can afford, that's theirs, that's portable. They never have to worry about losing it. That's the answer.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here's what we have to do. We need to be able to buy our healthcare insurance across state lines, Wolf. Right now, the same single policy that can be purchased in Long Beach for $73 costs $334 in New Jersey. The states lock up the insurance industry. They won't let Americans buy across state lines, just like they do everything else. If we're able to do that, we're going to bring down the cost.


GUPTA: All right, so we've heard from the Republicans and the Democrats on healthcare, but did any of them stand out as front runners on this particular issue? Not long ago, we caught up with senior political analyst Bill Schneider in Manchester, New Hampshire. He knows this better than anybody. I started by asking him why healthcare is becoming a political issue now after being off the radar for more than a decade.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The healthcare issue was very hot in the early 1990s because the economy was poor and people were afraid, if they lost their jobs, they'd lose their healthcare.

Now it's a different concern. Two things really. One is escalating costs. Healthcare costs have been rising rapidly. People's health insurance premiums have gone up very sharply. And they're afraid not of losing their jobs so much as losing their healthcare because they can't afford to pay for it. Employers have been cutting back.

And second of all, the rapidly rising number of uninsured Americans. I think it's now above 45 million Americans, approaching 50 million, who don't have any health insurance, which, of course, costs everybody. And people know that. So those two concerns, cost and the number of uninsured, is really driving that issue.

GUPTA: All right. So when you take all that, Bill, did anyone stand out among the crowd on this particular issue? SCHNEIDER: In the Democratic debate, there was an interesting discussion between John Edwards and Barack Obama over whose plan was truly universal. Edwards claimed his was, because he mandated that everyone buy health insurance in his plan, just like everyone is required in many states to buy auto insurance.

But Barack Obama pointed out, well, you can mandate all you want, but if people can't afford it, they're not going to buy it. And he said his plan makes healthcare more affordable, health insurance more affordable.

And then Hillary Clinton came in and talked from the voice of experience about how they all have to work together. It was an interesting debate.

On the Republican side, most candidates didn't really have a plan, but they attacked the Democrats for offering what they called socialized medicine. The candidate with the most experience was Tommy Thompson. After all, he used to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. He talked very knowledgeably about some of the reforms that are need to make healthcare more affordable. And then Mitt Romney spoke up about what he did in Massachusetts to really mandate healthcare coverage for every citizen in Massachusetts. That could be a problem for him because other Republican competitors are saying that was big government, a plan that was also supported by Ted Kennedy.


GUPTA: Ted Kennedy there and not someone that most Republicans want to identify with. Bill Schneider, thanks so much. Bill is part of the best political team on television.

Now to do your own comparison and check where candidates stand on all the issues, check on In addition to the latest news, you can also watch both debates once again.

When HOUSECALL returns, taking supplements to beat back cancer. New studies show what works and what doesn't.

And later...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dad, could you buy me some diabetes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could I have another dose of sugar?




GUPTA: A big campaign of another kind. One state trying to get parents and kids to think before they eat.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. Lots of news happening this week. And of course, we turn to Judy Fortin for that. She's here with this week's poll. Judy?


Glaxosmithkline released new data on the diabetes drug Avandia, hoping to refute recent reports that the medication increases risk of heart attack. Their study from an ongoing clinical trial of more than 4,000 people showing hospitalization and death from heart problems were the same for people taking Avandia and those who do not. Still, patients taking Avandia were twice as likely to suffer congestive heart failure. Experts say the new data is inconclusive, and patients should speak with their doctor to determine if the drug treatment is appropriate.

Elsewhere, research presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Annual Meeting offers the first scientific studies on complementary treatments for cancer patients. According to one preliminary study, a group of 80 men taking daily flaxseed supplements for 30 days prior to prostate cancer surgery had slower tumor growth that's men who stuck to their normal diets. This finding needs to be validated with larger studies.

However, a multi-phase study involving almost 400 patients concluded adding shark extract to therapy does not improve the survival rate of people with advanced lung cancer. But as you know, Sanjay, patients should always consult with their doctor before trying any new treatment. Back to you.

GUPTA: Judy, thanks. Lots of information out there. Thanks for translating a lot of that for us.

And at home, tell me if you think cancer research and healthcare is going in the right direction. Blog me at I want to hear your thoughts on this. And remember to get your midweek health check up as well Wednesday evenings. My newest podcast is downloadable for free on or at i-tunes.

Now before you check that out, you're going to want to stay tuned to HOUSECALL. Some amazing stuff. Coming up, it's one of the biggest concerns for me. Waning testosterone levels. What to expect in your 30s, 40s and beyond.

Plus, an in your face message from one state trying to connect with parents about their kids' health. All that's ahead on HOUSECALL.


GUPTA: Welcome back. It's one of the biggest concerns to aging men - decreasing testosterone, what that could mean for their health and their libido. Healthy men are now taking testosterone to boost muscle mass, sharpen their memory, even improve their sex drive.

However, doctors continue to debate whether that's such a good idea. Judy Fortin is back now with a look at what changes men should expect as they age.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 7:00 a.m., and 58-year-old Chuck Negley has already finished an hour run. Since his early 30s, Chuck's been exercising to avoid male menopause.

YASSAR OUSMAN, DR., WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: As men age, there's an age related decline in their testosterone levels. This decline is usually slow but progressive.

FORTIN: Testosterone levels can affect mood and sex drive.

CHUCK NAEGELI, FIT AT FIFTY: My doctor thinks I'm doing fairly well. It's not making any extra recommendations because I'm already doing probably more than the average person.

FORTIN: In their 30s, men may begin to see a gradual change in muscle mass and endurance. They might start to slow down and lose a bit of their vitality as testosterone levels begin to even out. But if the levels fall too low, there could be other health problems.

OUSMAN: The symptoms that we attribute to low testosterone can be seen in other medical illnesses, edemas, heart disease, liver disease, lung disease. So it's really difficult to make a diagnosis.

FORTIN: In their 40s, some men face more obvious problems like lower sex drives and severe fatigue. Many may even begin to suffer from depression. Women also carry certain amounts of testosterone in their bodies. In their 40s, women's hormones begin to change.

OUSMAN: They may also experience a drop in the testosterone. And therefore they may experience a number of symptoms, particularly related to their sexual life and their sexual satisfaction.

FORTIN: Men in their 50s can begin to experience stronger mood swings and erectile dysfunction or ED. According to the American Urological Association, hormone patches and gels can help. In extreme cases, medication for depression and ED is available. But for most, the answer is simply to get off the couch. Exercise can bump up low testosterone levels, improving sex drive and giving men extra muscle mass as they get older.

Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Judy. This coming week is men's health week. It leads up to Father's Day. Now a recent CDC study showed women make twice as many preventive health visits to their doctors as men. Guys, this is the week to try to change that. Know your risks, know your numbers, cholesterol, blood pressure. And if it's time for a checkup, go ahead and get one.

Just ahead on HOUSECALL, big money for a growing problem. In the campaign to stop kids from eating junk, there's a new weapon. Details, after the break.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. Now every week, we bring the latest on what's working and what's not, as we strive to make this a more fit nation. Well, this week, a state spending millions on some shocking ads, which they hope will be a reality check for parents.


GUPTA (voice-over): These ads might seem shocking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dad, could you buy me some diabetes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I drink another cup of sugar?



GUPTA: The state of California hopes the ads will force parents to stop and think before they give their kids junk food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't look unhealthy, but the food I ate sure was.

GUPTA: The ads warn parents that poor diet can lead to weight problems, illnesses, even early death.

KRIS PERRY, DIRECTOR, FIRST 5 CALIFORNIA: We're trying to convey to you that these little choices all day long, a cookie here, a doughnut there, a glass of juice, some chips. By the end of the day, your child has consumed far more calories than they really needed.

GUPTA: Now the campaign is funded by the state's tobacco tax and is part of the larger state initiative to get kids fit. And the ads are getting noticed, even by celebrities.

ADAM SANDLER, GUEST HOST: A child obesity commercial came on, you know. They showed this kid just eating and eating, and family keeps feeding him. And then eventually he gets diabetes and stuff. And we were watching it. It was a very powerful commercial. Me and my little girl just both took the cheeseburgers out of our mouth, and we're like...

GUPTA: California is not the only state to take on childhood obesity, but it's the first to fund millions of dollars into an anti- obesity effort into this magnitude. But states with smaller budgets can still do their part.

Look at Arkansas. They were the first state to push for better nutrition in public schools by getting rid of vending machines.

KEN STANTON, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: Arkansas would be a good example because that's certainly not one of the most affluent states. And yet, they were sort of the head runner in terms of where we started our obesity report cards.

GUPTA: Back in California, state officials say about 60 percent of all Californians have seen the ads since the campaign was launched about a year ago. Their hope, parents will think twice the next time their kids ask for unhealthy food.

Hmm, and coming up, some good news for everyone trying to drop a few pounds. More HOUSECALL after the break.


GUPTA: We got some encouraging news for dieters as well this morning. New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans are doing a good job keeping off extra pounds. A national survey of 1,300 adults found that almost 6 out of 10 people who said they lost more than 10 percent of their body weight were able to keep those pounds off for at least a year. That's good news. So you can do it. Just stick with it.

Now for more on losing weight and keeping it off, click over to You can pledge hours of exercise and find a print workout journal as well. And for all the men out there, find a doctor. You get a list of screenings need at various stages by going to

Unfortunately, we're out of time today. But tune in every weekend to HOUSECALL for the latest medical news and the answers to all of your medical questions. That's at 8:30 Eastern.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.


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