Chicago Sun-Times
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Sweet column: Obama's Health plan. Universal coverage debate.


WASHINGTON -- Democratic White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) unveiled his long-awaited health care plan on Tuesday, promising that everyone will be able to buy affordable health insurance and that people now covered will pay less. Employers would keep their insurance expenses down because the federal government would pay for the most costly cases.

Obama proposes mandating coverage of children but not adults, opening the question of whether his plan will lead to Obama keeping his first pledge, to sign a universal health care law by the end of his first term.

"We believe it to be a universal plan," said Obama health care advisor Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economics professor. Goolsbee said the plan meets "the high unmet demand of people who want to buy health insurance."

Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said the Obama package was a "near universal" plan. "He's in the ballpark."

Stephen Zuckerman, a health economist at the Urban Institute, said "no question this plan would expand coverage, but it won't lead to universal coverage." Neither Blendon nor Zuckerman are associated with a campaign.

Obama unveiled his plan at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Now all three major Democratic 2008 contenders have put an overhaul of the health care system at the top of their domestic agendas.

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) earlier put out an expansive plan mandating universal coverage.

Last week, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) detailed her proposals for lowering health costs, with the universal health piece to come later.

Cost: $50 billion to $65 billion
The Edwards and Clinton camps issued statements that showed they were skeptical that Obama's plan fulfills his universal coverage pledge.
"Sen. Clinton believes that in addition to making health care more accessible, we have to achieve true universal health care so that every American has health care coverage," said her policy director, Neera Tanden.

Edwards spokesman Mark Kornblau said, "Any plan that does not cover all Americans is simply inadequate."

While in the Illinois state Senate, Obama was a sponsor of the Cardinal Bernardin Amendment, a guarantee that all Illinois residents had what he called in an IVI-IPO questionnaire the "right of health care coverage."

Central elements of Obama's programs are:

• Extensive health care cost savings, through expansion of information technology, reduced administrative overhead and more effectively caring for the most expensive patients, those who have chronic illnesses. Insurance companies would be forced to pass on these savings and reduce premiums.

• Creation of a National Health Insurance Exchange to oversee the private health insurance marketplace and sell insurance. Employers who do not make a "meaningful" payment toward health insurance will have to contribute to the national plan -- with certain small employers exempt.

• Coverage of children would be mandatory. Medicaid, the state-federal program for the needy, would be expanded with the federal government picking up costs. Employers would get federal reimbursements for care of catastrophically ill patients.

• The cost is estimated to be between $50 billion and $65 billion, to be paid with economies in the system and letting the Bush temporary tax cuts expire for those in the top brackets.

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I think it is more important that the plan actually helps American families with health care rather than it meeting the goal of being "universal" through mandates. I think that is a plus for Obama's plan, rather than a negative.

And who is going to pay for this socialistic health care program of this unknown person who is never going to be president? LOL

Obama = fringe candidate with nothing to offer

i've been an insurance agent for 30 years in illinois. from everything i see and hear out there in the field, i am convinced that we need universal health care. hundreds of thousands of mothers are working full time jobs just to get health care benefits from their employers. the children are really the ones who suffer. when mothers can't be home with their children it causes all kinds of problems. too many to mention. also, if we had universal health care, the corporations and small business sector would have less overhead thereby stimulating our economy by putting that money back into our economy. can you imagine the extra money everyone would have on a monthly basis if we didn't have to pay for our healthcare? not to mention that our cobra (illinoi's state insurance plan for uninsurable people) is crap!! it is way too high of a price. when someone loses their job it costs way too much (since they have lost their job), they can't afford it, so then they either go without insurance or they have to spend down their assets to qualify for state-aid. you call this america??? lets stop the politic game playing and get on with it. at this point we need anything we can to stimulate our country!!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on May 30, 2007 9:20 AM.

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