Richardson Health Insurance Plan Would Expand Preventive Coverage

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Presidential candidate New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) on Tuesday announced a proposal that would extend health insurance coverage 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 SCHIP 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, />, 8/8);

    Des Moines Register

  • 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).

Clinton To Work as Nurse

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).

AFL-CIO Debate

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.

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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).

Letter to Editor Praises Giuliani Proposal

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).

Preventive Care Might Not Save Money, Columnist Writes

The great hope of every health care reformer is that better care will mean cheaper care," columnist David Leonhardt writes in a New York Times opinion piece, noting that the "three leading Democrats running for president have all put this idea at the center of their plans," and Giuliani has suggested it as well.

Leonhardt continues, "The would-be reformers have hit on something important here. The current health care system doesn't pay hospitals, doctors and nurses to keep people healthy; it pays for tests, surgeries and drugs," so with a greater focus on preventive care, U.S. residents "would be healthier than they are today and live longer." However, "the current presidential candidates go one step further," Leonhardt says, adding, "They don't merely argue that preventive care delivers good bang for the buck. They argue that it delivers good bang for no bucks whatsoever. And this is where the candidates are overreaching." H

e writes that "[n]o one really knows whether preventive medicine will save money in the long run, let alone free up the billions of dollars a year needed to help pay for universal health insurance." Leonhardt continues that by "describing it as an easy win-win solution, the presidential candidates are gliding over an important part of the issue" -- that preventive care "saves real money only when it replaces existing care that is expensive and doesn't do much, if any, good."

However, people receiving this type of care "typically don't consider it wasteful," and "[p]ersuading people otherwise -- persuading them that basic care is sometimes cheaper and better -- will be difficult," Leonhardt writes (Leonhardt, New York Times, 8/8).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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