President Bush and Democratic candidate Sen. John F. Kerry have decidedly different ideas about how Americans' health care should be managed and paid for. Following are the basic points of their positions.

Kerry

* Proposes opening the health care program that covers members of Congress and federal workers to all Americans.

* Would encourage access to private health insurance by creating a federal fund to reimburse employers for 75 percent of an employee's catastrophic health costs over $50,000.

* Would have the federal government pay for the roughly 20 million children covered by Medicaid in exchange for states expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program to include children in families up to 300 percent of the poverty level.

* Supports the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit but opposes making seniors join a health maintenance organization to get the coverage. Voted against the 2003 Medicare bill, saying it harmed seniors and helped drug firms by encouraging privatization of Medicare.

* Favors allowing the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical firms for lower drug prices for Medicare recipients.

* Favors reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada.

* Favors incentives for states to negotiate cheaper drug prices.

* Favors eliminating some loopholes that hinder the introduction to the market of some cheaper generic drugs.

* Opposes capping damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, but calls for medical review of all malpractice claims before a suit can be filed. Would require that states provide nonbinding mediation before suits proceed to trial.

* Supports sanctions against plaintiffs and lawyers who bring frivolous medical malpractice claims.

Bush

* Proposes refundable tax credits for lower-income Americans to purchase health insurance.

* Would allow small businesses to pool purchasing power to offer employees health coverage.

* Has expanded Medicare to include a prescription-drug benefit, with a deductible; created drug discount cards. Wants insurance companies to offer private health plans to current Medicare recipients.

* Opposes allowing the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical firms for lower drug prices for Medicare recipients.

* Opposes reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada.

* Supports a $250,000 cap on noneconomic losses in malpractice cases.

SOURCE: washingtonpost.com