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Kerry Talks Up Universal Health Care Plan

By Sarah Abruzzese, CQ Staff

July 31, 2006 -- Every American will have health care coverage by 2012 if Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., gets his way, the senator said in a speech on Monday.

The 2004 presidential candidate told a crowd assembled in Boston's historic Faneuil Hall, "I return to discuss health care, which is not only the great unfinished business of half a century, but a matter of fundamental moral values," according to text of the speech released by his office.

Kerry, who is talked about as a contender for the Democratic nomination in 2008, previously campaigned on bringing a comprehensive health plan to Americans.

Through his plan, medical coverage would first be expanded to all children; the federal government would defray high-cost health care, helping to keep premiums low; and every American would have access to health care similar to that provided to members of Congress, using tax credits to help make health care affordable for small businesses, the middle class, and people between jobs. It also would focus on preventative care, so Americans aren't waiting until the last moment to seek care and entering emergency rooms.

Kerry proposes that his "Health Care for All Americans" plan will be paid for by repealing tax cuts for individuals earning over $200,000 annually that were enacted by President Bush.

But if this policy is similar to the one Kerry was touting during his presidential run, it won't work, said Ed Haislmaier, a research fellow for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank. "It is a top-down approach," he said. "It is the managerial 'we are going to sort it out for everybody' approach."

Josh Holmes, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said, "Big government proposals aren't anything new for John Kerry or the Democratic party."

But Kerry said his plan is in response to a worsening health care situation. "This president and his party still have nothing to offer on health care other than a Medicare prescription drug plan that has turned out to be an unfolding disaster for seniors and a massive giveaway to the big drug companies," he said.

But Kerry isn't the only one in politics thinking about universal health care as a solution to problems with the U.S. health care system. Massachusetts already is on its way to near universal health care after a massive overhaul of the state's health care services enacted by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.

The law, signed April 12, requires each Massachusetts resident to have insurance coverage by July 1, 2007. Under the plan, state funds now paid to providers for treating the uninsured would be used to help pay premiums for low-income residents. At the same time, employers who do not offer insurance would be charged a per-employee fee to help fund the program.

Several other Democrats also are proposing universal health care plans. Last week Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., announced their different versions of a universal health care plan.

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