Health care coverage would no longer be optional in the United States under a plan announced Monday by presidential candidate John Edwards that would require all businesses to provide insurance and all Americans to have it.
The 2004 vice presidential nominee said he would raise taxes to pay for the plan’s cost of up to $120 billion a year.
“The time has come for a universal health care reform that covers everyone, cuts costs, and provides better care,” said the plan that Edwards posted Monday on his Web site.
Edwards’ plan is the first detailed health care plan to be offered by a Democrat seeking the White House in 2008. Several others are expected to offer competing ideas to help at least some of the 47 million people who are uninsured.
The issue is new for Edwards, who proposed to cover children in his 2004 campaign but didn’t have a broader plan for adult uninsureds. The idea is clearly appealing to Democratic activists who cheered Edwards Friday when he called on them to stand up for the “silent victims of a health care system that’s dysfunctional and getting worse every single day.”
“Can we finally say we stand, now and forever, for every single man, woman and child in America having health care, universal health care?” Edwards said before a speech at the Democratic National Committee. “We will leave no one behind. We will not allow a single family or a single child in America to not have health care coverage and to not have the health care that they need and deserve.”
Edwards’ plan aims to have universal coverage by 2012. A Democratic rival, Barack Obama, also has said that is his goal, but the Illinois senator has yet to provide more specifics about how he would get there.
Edwards’ plan would first require employers to cover their workers or help pay for their insurance. He would try to clamp down on rising costs with tax credits to help lower and middle income Americans pay for their plans, expand government programs like Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and make changes to insurance laws to require coverage for all regardless of pre-existing conditions or other factors. And he would create nonprofit regional purchasing pools so that consumers would have a way to buy an affordable and high quality plan.
Finally, he would require every American to get coverage, unless they have financial or religious exemptions.
Edwards said his plan will make it cheaper for families and businesses to have insurance coverage while providing health care to the uninsured.
“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,” the former North Carolina senator said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Edwards said he would free up money for health care coverage by abolishing President Bush’s tax cuts for people who make more than $200,000 a year and by having the government collect more back taxes.
“Yes, we’ll have to raise taxes,” Edwards said on NBC. “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.”
Edwards said health care insurance premiums have risen 90 percent over the past decade.
“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,” he said.
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