Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, seeking support from labor union members in New Jersey, vowed this week to make health insurance available to all Americans by the end of his first term in the White House.
“We can have universal health care by the end of the next president’s first term, by the end of my first term,” Obama said, bringing 600 union workers to their feet during a question-and-answer session with members of AFL-CIO affiliated unions.
The discussion was part of the labor organizations’ presidential endorsement process, and Obama used much of it to pitch his plan to bring health insurance to the 45 million Americans who lack it.
“This is an issue whose time has come,” the Illinois senator said.
Sharon Masino, a card dealer since 1984 at Caesars casino in Atlantic City, told Obama dealers there decided to unionize recently in part to oppose a new health care plan she said would have cost her $20,000 per year to help treat her ill husband.
“I would not be able to provide for my family,” the mother of four said.
Obama said affordable health insurance can be funded by saving $75 billion per year through having more people use regular doctor checkups instead of more expensive emergency room visits, improving treatment of chronic illnesses and relying more on technology to reduce paperwork.
He said medical records can be put onto a digital chip that can be carried around on a key chain, for instance.
“If the credit card company can do it, I don’t know why the medical system can’t do it,” Obama said.
If those moves aren’t enough, he said he would support rolling back tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
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