Guest Author - Tracey-Kay Caldwell
John Edwards has announced a plan for universal health care that would cover every man, woman and child in America. Edwards said, “The American health care system today is broken for far too many of our families. . . To fix this crisis, we don't need an incremental shift, we need a fundamental change. We need universal health care in this country – not only access to insurance as some politicians say -- so every American is insured and we bring down costs for middle and working-class families.”
Edwards has built his vision for healthcare reform on four steps. First, Businesses would be required to support their employees health by providing a comprehensive health plan or contributing to the cost of covering them in health markets. Second, the government would have the responsibility to help families obtain insurance. Edwards plan would offer new health insurance tax credits to subsidize insurance purchased though health markets. These tax credits would be available on a sliding scale to middle class families and refundable to families without income tax liability. He would expand Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to serve all adults under the poverty line and all children and parents under two hundred and fifty percent of the poverty line. This would cover most families of four making fifty thousand dollars a year or less. Edwards would require insurers to keep plans open to everyone, charging fair premiums, regardless of preexisting conditions, medical history, age, job, or other characteristics. He would secure the system of public hospitals, clinics and community health center as a safety net for valuable trauma and emergency care, to respond to public health crises or bio-terrorist attack, and provide a backbone to our medical education system.
Third, Edwards would create a network of regional health markets. Health market plans would be comprehensive, including full mental health benefits. It would offer a choice between public and private plans. The scale on which health markets would operate, would enable them to negotiate better prices than business or individuals could on their own. Because the health markets would do the negotiating and premium collections, this would reduce administrative costs for businesses. Edwards’s fourth step would require personal responsibility. Everyone would be required to have health insurance, through the health markets, Medicaid, Medicare, SCHIP, or through their job; exemptions would be made for religious beliefs.
Edwards plan would help doctors deliver better care by promoting evidence-based medicine, disseminating objective information on health advance, helping doctors implement these new advances, and improve the health care delivery system. The plan would create a public private partnership to reorganize patient care, improve internal communications, reduce errors through electronic prescribing, and establishing basic quality benchmarks. Edwards plan would invest in preventative care. Individuals who scheduled free physicals and enrolled in healthy living programs would receive reduced premiums. It would support community programs that promote health through safe streets, walking and bike trails, safe and well equipped parks, and physical education programs. It would encourage plans to monitor chronic diseases and take steps to keep crises from arising, by taking steps like providing nutritional counseling to diabetics.
Edwards plan would create “Consumer Reports” for health care; a report card evaluating hospitals effectiveness in treating injuries and disease. He would protect consumers by restricting direct to customer marketing of new drugs, so that consumers are not mislead about risks. He would ensure that those evaluating new drugs and medical devises are truly independent. He would increase the ability of the Food and Drug Administration to monitor drugs after they enter the marketplace. He would implement Information technology to improve productivity, including adopting electronic medical records.
John Edwards asks, “Can we finally say, we shall stand now and forever, for every single man, woman, and child in America having healthcare, universal healthcare. We will leave no one behind. We will not allow a single family or a single child in America to not have healthcare coverage and to not have the healthcare they need and deserve.”
John Edwards Message on Universal Healthcare