Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Universal Health Care? Obama says Maybe Not at First

Illinois Senator Barack Obama, a democratic candidate for President, chose the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City to unveil his plan to make sure all Americans have health care. Pledging universal health care has been one of the most-spoken promises from some of the democrats during their stops in Iowa. During his speech, Obama said, "I will sign a universal health care plan into law by the end of my first term in office." But after his speech today, Obama told me his plan may not be really "universal. " He said it's "virtually universal". What's the difference?

His plan doesn't mandate coverage, except for children. Uninsured adults are encouraged to participate, so are small businesses. But no one is forced to participate. Obama says people will want to take part in this, though. He believes people will sign up for the plan, since coverage will be far cheaper. And businesses, he says, when it comes down to it, want to be able to offer health insurance. They just haven't been able to afford it in the past. So he admits not everyone may do this. He says if we get "3,4 or 5 years down the road.." and he finds 5% or so are still not covered, then he'll adjust to make sure everyone's covered. Mandates?

Obama told me rolling back President George W Bush's tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans will provide most of the money to make his plan work (people who make 250k plus). The rest of the savings will come from switching to electronic record-keeping (although, there are obvious start up costs for that), as well as reduced bills for emergency room visits, because people, in theory, would take better care of themselves since they have access to health care.

The feds would also pick up the cost of the most expensive illnesses and conditions. That will lower annual premiums overall for families, Obama said, by up to $2500.

John Edwards folks had this to say...

"John Edwards has a detailed plan to make health care coverage more affordable and truly universal. He believes that incremental measures are not enough. Any plan that does not cover all Americans is simply inadequate." - Mark Kornblau, spokesperson

Hillary Clinton's camp just weighed in, too...

Clinton Campaign Policy Director Neera Tanden today released the following statement:

"We commend Senator Obama for entering the healthcare debate and supporting incentives to make healthcare more affordable; Senator Clinton has long fought to expand healthcare coverage and initiated the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that now covers 6 million children and has led the fight in the Senate to pass health information technology.

"Senator Clinton believes that in addition to making healthcare more accessible, we have to achieve true universal healthcare so that every American has health care coverage."

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