Richardson Unveils Tax-Free Universal Health Care Proposal
Presidential candidate New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) on Tuesday announced a proposal that would extend health insurance to the 45 million U.S. residents who lack coverage and would not require a tax increase, the Washington Post reports.
Under the proposal, all residents would have to obtain health insurance (MacGillis, Washington Post, 8/8). The proposal would:
- Allow residents ages 55 to 64 to pay to participate in Medicare, expand Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program to include more low-income children and families and allow young adults to continue to receive health insurance through the policies of their parents until age 25;
- Provide tax credits on a sliding income scale to help residents purchase health insurance (Glover, AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/7);
- Allow residents and small businesses to purchase the same health insurance offered to members of Congress and the president;
- Mandate that health insurers no longer can deny coverage to residents with pre-existing medical conditions;
- Provide veterans with a "Heroes Health Card" that would expand their access to health care;
- Require employers to pay a share of health insurance costs for employees;
- Limit interest rates applied to health care costs charged to credit cards;
- Allow the federal government to negotiate prices directly with pharmaceutical companies under the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Petroski, Des Moines Register, 8/8);
- Establish incentives for preventive care programs; and
- Improve health care efficiency though increased use of technology and other measures (AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/7).
Richardson said that the proposal would cost an estimated $110 billion annually but that savings from the plan would cover the cost (Washington Post, 8/8).
He said, "Despite Republican hand-wringing about the cost of universal care, it is clear that the cost of doing something -- in lives and dollars -- pales in comparison to the cost of doing nothing" (Des Moines Register, 8/8). Richardson added, "My plan does not build a new bureaucracy. The last thing we need between patients and doctors is another sticky web of red tape" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/7).
In other campaign news, presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) next week will work a shift as a nurse at a hospital in the Las Vegas area as part of the "Walk a Day in My Shoes" program sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, the New York Post reports.
The Clinton campaign has not commented on the nursing duties that she will perform.
On Wednesday, presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will help a home health aide care for an 87-year-old patient as part of the program.
Presidential candidates Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Richardson previously have participated in the program (Earle, New York Post, 8/8).
Seven Democratic presidential candidates on Tuesday participated in a debate sponsored by the AFL-CIO at Soldier Field in Chicago during which they discussed health care and other issues, the Washington Post reports.
During the debate, Clinton said that she has fought against pharmaceutical and health insurance industry groups on health care issues for a number of years.
Edwards discussed health care when an audience member told the candidates that a forced disability retirement has left him unable to afford health insurance for himself and his wife (Balz, Washington Post, 8/8).
MSNBC video of the complete debate is available online. Video of a question for Edwards on health care also is available online (MSNBC, 8/7).
The health care proposal recently announced by presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) "underscores the obvious: only the innovation of the private sector and competitive pressures exerted by individual customers will cure what ails the health care system," Scott Atlas -- senior adviser to the Giuliani campaign, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine -- writes in a Washington Times letter to the editor.
According to Atlas, the proposal would "increase the quality, affordability and portability of health care using consumer-driven solutions," and families would have more "authority ... through a new tax-free income exclusion ... of up to $15,000 for Americans without employer-based coverage." Giuliani has "laid out bold principles to get affordable coverage for all Americans, and that coverage would offer what they actually want, rather than what government decrees for them," Atlas writes, adding that proposals announced by Democratic presidential candidates "offer only steps toward socialism" (Atlas, Washington Times, 8/8).