Democratic Presidential Candidate Lieberman Introduces Health Care Proposal
Presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) yesterday outlined an "incremental and relatively frugal" plan to reduce the number of uninsured U.S. residents by three-quarters, the Hartford Courant reports. Lieberman introduced the plan, which would cost about $53.4 billion per year for the first five years, in a speech at an elementary school in Silver Spring, Md. (MacDonald, Hartford Courant, 9/3). The plan has several components:
- MediKids: The program would offer coverage to individuals up to age 25; low-income families would not pay for coverage, and families with annual incomes above $50,000 would pay an estimated $1,600 per year in premiums (Page, USA Today, 9/3). Families with incomes as much as three times the federal poverty level would be eligible to enroll in the program, which would cover 100% of costs (Schlesinger, Wall Street Journal, 9/3). MediKids would provide health coverage to approximately nine million uninsured children (Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 9/3).
- MediChoice: The plan would allow self-employed people and employees of small businesses to buy insurance coverage on a sliding scale through a system modeled after the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. Premiums would be based on income, and refundable tax credits would be used to ensure that no one pays more than 7.5% of their income for health coverage (USA Today, 9/3). Both the MediKids and MediChoice programs would keeps costs down by capping insurer profits at 2% (Connolly, Washington Post, 9/3).
- KeepCare: The proposal would help laid-off workers and employees of companies that go out of business with the cost of coverage by requiring that all employer-sponsored health plans extend at least two months after an employee leaves; offering tax credits to cover 65% of COBRA premiums for workers between jobs; and creating new insurance pools to which COBRA recipients and workers receiving unemployment insurance would have access for one year (Lieberman for President Web site).
Lieberman said he wants to "build on what works in the nation's current health care system [and] fix what does not," the Courant reports; he added that his plan would have "the lowest cost per person of any presidential candidate" (Hartford Courant, 9/3). According to Lieberman campaign spokesperson Jano Cabrera, Lieberman would fund his health care proposal by repealing portions of tax cuts implemented by President Bush (Los Angeles Times, 9/3). Lieberman said he would not increase the federal deficit to pay for expanded health care programs (USA Today, 9/3). According to the Journal, one of the "main difference[s]" between Lieberman's plan and those proposed by other Democratic presidential candidates is that Lieberman focuses more on extending coverage to the uninsured and less on lowering insurance costs for workers (Wall Street Journal, 9/3). He also said that his plan is the only one among the major Democratic candidates that would cover all uninsured children and keep them covered until age 25, the New York Times reports (Janofsky, New York Times, 9/3). "Unlike some of the other presidential candidates, I understand that we don't just need more coverage; we need better care," Lieberman said (Hartford Courant, 9/3). More information on Lieberman's plan is available online.
In related news, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) yesterday formally announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination (VandeHei, Washington Post, 9/3). During his announcement, Kerry said he would repeal tax cuts implemented by Bush to increase federal funding in several areas, including health care (Thomma, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/3). Kerry in May introduced a health care proposal that would expand SCHIP eligibility and would cover 75% of the cost of coverage for individuals with catastrophic health care costs -- those that total $50,000 or more -- who would enroll in a new "premium rebate pool." He would also allow individuals to pay to participate in FEHBP and would end legal provisions that allow pharmaceutical companies to block the entry of generic medications to the market. Kerry would also bar punitive damages in malpractice lawsuits that do not involve intentional misconduct, gross negligence or reckless indifference to life, and he would provide tax credits and other incentives for hospitals to invest in new technologies to help reduce medical errors and administrative costs. Kerry has said that his proposal would cost about $72 billion and provide health coverage to 96% of U.S. residents (California Healthline, 5/28). CNN's "Larry King Live" yesterday included an interview with Kerry on several issues, including funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and his plans for health care reform (King, "Larry King Live," CNN, 9/2). The full transcript of the segment is available online.
Meanwhile, several Democratic presidential candidates this weekend promoted their health care proposals at campaign events. Speaking in Nashua, N.H., on Monday, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) said his health care plan would "benefit virtually every American" by covering 60% of all medical costs, the Nashua Telegraph reports. While Gephardt said he would finance his proposal by repealing tax cuts implemented by Bush, he did not outline the cost of the proposal, which some published reports have estimated at about $250 billion per year, the Telegraph reports (West, Nashua Telegraph, 9/2). In Portland, Maine, on Friday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) discussed his single-payer proposal, which he said would provide coverage for a range of medical procedures, the Portland Press Herald reports. Kucinich also said the nation was developing a system of "health poverty," in which rising health care costs are preventing the poor and unemployed from receiving needed care (Ellis, Portland Press Herald, 8/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.