Edwards’ Health Plan Calls for Universal Coverage by 2012
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Monday proposed a universal health coverage plan that would raise taxes and impose health insurance mandates on employers, the Washington Post reports (Balz, Washington Post, 2/6). Edwards said the plan would provide coverage by 2012 for the estimated 47 million uninsured U.S. residents and would cost between $90 billion and $120 billion per year (Finnegan, Los Angeles Times, 2/6).
Under the plan, employers would be required to provide health insurance for employees or contribute 6% of their payrolls to a fund that would help individuals purchase their own insurance (Broder, New York Times, 2/6).
The proposal also would allow employers and individuals to join regional health insurance pools to purchase coverage. The federal government would be required to help states or groups of states establish the not-for-profit purchasing pools or markets (Christensen, Raleigh News & Observer, 2/6).
The pools would negotiate premiums and offer competing health plans. At least one plan offered by each pool would be a public health program similar to Medicare (Los Angeles Times, 2/6).
In addition, Edwards said the proposal would expand Medicaid and SCHIP to cover more children and low-income parents (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 2/6).
The plan would provide tax credits or subsidies to low-income families who cannot afford health insurance (New York Times, 2/6).
Edwards said the cost of the proposal would be offset by eliminating tax cuts proposed by President Bush and approved by Congress for households with annual incomes greater than $200,000. Edwards said the program also would be funded by using an estimated $15 billion in capital gains taxes that "go uncollected each year by requiring brokerage houses to report capital gains from taxpayers' stock sales to the Internal Revenue Service, just as interest and dividend income is reported now," the New York Times reports.
Edwards said that billions of dollars could be saved by investing more in preventive care efforts and making the health care system more efficient (New York Times, 2/6).
Edwards said, "This is the shared-responsibility approach to reforming our health care system," adding, "I think it's a dramatic change in the health care system, the kind of transformation it needs. It's a truly universal system" (Washington Post, 2/6). Edwards said he thinks the plan is "appealing across the ideological and political spectrum" (Los Angeles Times, 2/6).
Stephanie Cathcart, a spokesperson for the National Federation of Independent Business, said, "Health care mandates are a non-starter for our members" (New York Times, 2/6).
Patrick Toomey, president of the Republican anti-tax group Club for Growth, said that plan would not be well received by most voters, who "already think taxes are too high." Toomey added that the proposal is "very good news for the Republican candidate, whoever that may be" (Wall Street Journal, 2/6).
Edwards' two main Democratic rivals for the presidential nomination, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), declined to comment on the details of Edwards' proposal (New York Times, 2/6).