Health Care an Issue for Presidential Candidates
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday said that he would raise taxes on U.S. residents with annual incomes greater than $200,000 to help pay for a universal health care plan, which he estimated would cost up to $120 billion per year, the New York Times reports (Broder, New York Times, 2/5). Edwards said his plan would be designed to provide health care to the nearly 47 million uninsured U.S. residents and reduce costs for middle-class families by making health care programs more efficient.
Under his proposal, Edwards said he would expand Medicaid and SCHIP and provide federal health care subsidies. In addition, Edwards said he would require employers to offer coverage to their employees or buy into "health markets" that would include a government health plan.
Edwards said he would pay for the universal health care plan by repealing President Bush's tax cuts for people with annual incomes greater than $200,000 and by collecting more back taxes (AP/Chicago Tribune, 2/5).
Edwards said, "The only way you can pay for a health care plan that costs anywhere from $90 billion to $120 billion is there has to be a revenue source" (Pfeiffer, Washington Times, 2/5).
Edwards said, "The bottom line is we're asking everybody to share in the responsibility of making health care work in this country. Employers, those who are in the medical insurance business, employees, the American people -- everyone will have to contribute in order to make this work." He added, "We want to make sure everybody's covered. We want to help middle class families with the costs. We want to try to create competition that doesn't exist today" (AP/Chicago Tribune, 2/5).
Edwards said he will fully unveil his universal health care proposal on Monday (New York Times, 2/5).
In related news, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Edwards and other presidential candidates on Friday spoke at the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee, the Baltimore Sun reports. According to the Sun, there was "broad agreement" among the Democrats that policymakers should institute a universal health care system and address several other issues, such as the war in Iraq and global climate change (West, Baltimore Sun, 2/3).
USA Today on Friday hosted a forum with presidential candidates former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) and Tommy Thompson (R), a former Wisconsin governor and secretary of HHS in President Bush's first term.
During the forum, Vilsack and Thompson said that health care should be expanded to uninsured residents and that the federal government should focus on preventive health care.
Vilsack said, "The federal government and state governments need to cooperate together to provide universal coverage." He also said that, "As we take a look at redesigning the health care system, we have to incorporate significantly wellness components, both in the way we insure, what we incent, what we encourage, and even how we educate parents and children."
Thompson said, "You've got to start preventing. We have to go to a wellness system." He added, "You're going to have to cover the uninsured ... We've got to cover everybody in America on health insurance. It would be cheaper. It would stimulate the economy" (Page, USA Today, 2/5).
Separately, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney this weekend touted the Massachusetts health insurance law to Kentucky lawmakers, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The law requires all Massachusetts residents to obtain health insurance.
Romney said, "It's a new experiment. It will need corrections going forward to make it work. But it's a new model that other states are experimenting with as well" (Alessi, Lexington Herald-Leader, 2/5).
Edwards discussed his health care proposals in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" (Russet, "Meet the Press," NBC, 2/4). Video of the segment is available online.
In addition, NPR's "All Things Considered" reported on comments made by Democratic presidential candidates at the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee.
The segment includes comments from DNC Chair Howard Dean, Clinton, Obama, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), Edwards and a DNC member who attended the meeting (Hsu, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/3). Audio of the segment is available online.