John Edwards said Sunday that if elected president he would make health insurance available to all U.S. citizens and would back a tax increase on the wealthy to help pay for the expanded coverage.
Edwards said he will present a plan today that would extend health insurance to the 47 million people who do not now have it, would contain health insurance costs for the middle class, and would stimulate more competition. He estimated that his proposal would cost as much as $120 billion per year when fully implemented.
"We'll have to raise taxes," Edwards said during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" news program. "The only way you can pay for a heath care plan that costs anywhere from $90 billion to $120 billion is there has to be a revenue source."
Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and former Democratic vice presidential candidate, has talked about the need for a system of universal health care since he announced his candidacy in December.
But Edwards has yet to spell out the specifics of how he would propose to expand health insurance to the roughly 15 percent of the population not covered.
The Edwards campaign estimates that 18,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance and therefore don't get proper medical care.
Previewing his universal health care plan, Edwards said he would expand Medicaid -- the federal health insurance program for the poor -- and a federal health insurance plan for children, to make both more widely available. He would also require more employers to provide insurance. If they could not afford it, Edwards said, they could participate in what he called a "health markets" program that that would make such insurance available for employers.
One of the choices in the health markets, Edwards said, would be a government plan, "so people who like the idea of a single payer health insurance plan, that is one of the alternatives."
"We are asking everybody to share in the responsibility of making health care work in this country -- the employers, those who are in the medical insurance business, employees, the American people," Edward said. "Everyone will have to contribute in order to make this work."
To help play for the plan, Edward said he'll "get rid of George Bush's tax cuts for people who make more than $200,000 a year."
He also called for better collection of taxes already owed. For example, Edwards said brokerage houses should report capital gains that people earn because "we are losing billions and billions of dollars in tax revenue."
Staff writer Rob Christensen can be reached at 829-4532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.