Washington — Al Gore and George W. Bush relied on outdated numbers to describe the state of health care and mischaracterized some of their own policies in their final presidential debate Tuesday.
The vice president also made an attack on drug companies that conflicts with independent studies. Gore claimed that drug makers "are now spending more money on advertising and promotion you see all these ads than they are on research and development."
In fact, the industry spent between $5.8 billion and $8.3 billion on promotion and $21 billion on research and development in 1998, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study in July. There has been a 20-fold increase in TV drug advertising during the past six years.
Bush's statement that prescription drug coverage should be "an integral part of Medicare" was an odd description of his plan, which is notable for encouraging private-sector choices that may be outside the Medicare system.
Gore, by omission, made his plan to help parents with the costs of college sound more generous than it is.
"I want to give every middle class family a $10,000-a-year tax deduction for college tuition," the Democrat said. That's true, but a tax credit is already available for that purpose.
Gore is actually offering people a choice of an increased tax credit or the tax deduction. The additional benefit, for many families, would be $800.
Gore also suggested that his Republican rival's education plan would force states to give parents whose children are in failing schools vouchers to send their children to private schools. Bush's plan offers more choices than that, including using tax money to go to another public school, a charter school or to get tutoring.
Gore also said that when a school is found to be failing under Bush's plan, "kids would be trapped there for another three years" before anything is done. He suggested that his own plan would result in a failing school being closed and reopened under new leadership right away. In fact, Gore's plan to rescue a failing school would take two years.
Both candidates used outdated numbers on health insurance.
Bush said the number of Americans without health insurance has been rising for seven years. In fact, the number declined in 1999 for the first time since the Census Bureau began collecting data in 1987, according to a federal report last month.
About 42.5 million people, or 15.5 percent of the population, lacked insurance in 1999, compared with 44.2 million, or 16.3 percent, in 1998, the Census Bureau reported.
Gore claimed Texas ranked dead last in the country for the uninsured.
In fact, New Mexico ranked last with 25.6 percent of its residents without health insurance. Texas, which previously was ranked 50th, improved one notch in 1999 with 23.3 percent of its residents without health insurance. That was down from 24.5 percent in 1998.