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Biden Unveils Health Care Plan

By Mary Agnes Carey, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

October 23, 2007 -- Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware unveiled a health care plan Tuesday that he said would provide health insurance for all children, provide more coverage options for adults, and focus on disease prevention and modernizing the nation's health care system.

Biden's plan, announced in Des Moines, Iowa, would permit uninsured Americans to buy into an insurance program similar to the one that provides health care benefits to federal employees and members of Congress, with people paying on a sliding scale based on income. Biden's proposal also would allow people between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into the Medicare program, with the federal government providing a subsidy to low-income individuals.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) would be expanded to children in families with incomes of at least 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $61,950 for a family of four, and coverage would be extended to at least age 21. Biden's plan also would have the federal government cover 75 percent of the cost of catastrophic health costs for cases exceeding $50,000 per individual.

In a statement, Biden said if he were elected, he would convene a meeting, within the first 90 days of his administration, with all players involved in health care in hopes of making coverage both universal and affordable. "Getting this done will require the kind of experience and leadership that comes from years of success corralling bipartisan support for numerous issues," he said. "I have that experience and it will prove invaluable when I am president."

Separately on Tuesday, five Democratic presidential health care advisors debated their candidates' health care plans at a Congressional Quarterly Presidential Forum sponsored by the Partnership To Fight Chronic Disease and held at The George Washington University.

Other elements of Biden's plan would:

  • Eliminate co-payments for physicals, vaccinations, vision and hearing screenings, and preventative dental checkups for children of all income levels.
  • Prohibit employers and insurers from collecting or using genetic discrimination when making decisions about hiring or providing health care coverage, including the cost of a policy.
  • Invest at least $1 billion yearly to help hospitals, physicians, and other health care providers move to electronic health records systems.
  • Add 100,000 new nurses to the workforce in the next five years and establish scholarship and loan repayment programs to encourage people to join the public health workforce.

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