Edwards Gives Nod Toward “Health Care For America”

Bill Scher

Yesterday, presidential hopeful John Edwards announced a health care plan titled, Universal Health Care Through Shared Responsibility.

The New Republic reports today that a core feature of the plan is “the essential idea behind another health care reform plan that has been quietly generating a great deal of enthusiasm among reformers–a plan composed by Yale University political scientist … Jacob Hacker.”

That plan is Health Care for America, which Campaign for America’s Future has been promoting debate around.

Today, Jacob Hacker and Roger Hickey released statements praising the basic outline of the proposal. Hickey noted this will significantly move the debate, while Hacker laid out areas for Edwards and other candidates to strengthen.

Here’s Roger Hickey:

The health care plan put forward by Sen. John Edwards this week moves the debate in a very constructive direction. We hope other candidates will address as comprehensively as Edwards has the changes necessary to make sure that everyone in America gets good health care coverage — and what it will take to ensure that new system controls costs as well as Medicare and the VA system now does.

The public wants to hear bold solutions to what they perceive as a health care crisis, and most Americans want to hear health care plans that not only step up to the scale of the problem; they also want to hear solutions that are simple and understandable to be discussed it town halls and barber shops. On both counts, the Edwards health care plan is a big step forward.

And Jacob Hacker:

Those who believe in health security for all Americans should celebrate John Edwards’s new plan.

It includes two key building blocks for affordable universal coverage: a requirement that employers either cover their workers or make a reasonable contribution to the cost of coverage, and the creation of a new publicly overseen insurance pool through which workers without secure workplace coverage can have a choice of guaranteed public or private insurance, including an insurance plan modeled after the popular Medicare program.

To be sure, Edwards’s proposal could be less complex and even more effective.

I would prefer, for instance, a single national insurance pool for those without workplace coverage, and I believe the public Medicare-style option should be allowed to offer the broader benefits necessary to attract younger workers and compete on a level playing field with private insurance plans.

If this were done, as Edwards himself has said, the system may evolve over time toward a Medicare-like approach — the only approach that has been proven to control costs over time without shifting more costs and risks onto patients.

The Edwards proposal should be commended for creating a flexible framework for building on good employment-based coverage and the best elements of public insurance, rather than locking us into an individualized private model, as so many recent proposals have done.

The challenge for those who believe in this basic approach is to press for an even better proposal — one that more forthrightly expands Medicare-like coverage to those without workplace insurance so as to guarantee broad pooling of risks and better control over costs and quality.

Comments