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Health Care 'Is the Issue I'm Campaigning for,' Dean Says

May 01, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean gave a preview of his health-care proposal in a speech to labor union leaders Wednesday, saying the American people have made clear the issue should be center stage.

"I have gone all over this country and this is, if not the first issue that is brought up, it's the second. It even beats jobs in a lot of places and that's pretty serious when we think about the 2 million lost under this presidency," Dean, the former governor of Vermont, told members of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.5 million health-care workers.

"This is the issue I'm campaigning for," said Dean, a physician. "As a lot of you know, I did not support the president's war on Iraq, but I didn't start out as an antiwar campaigner. The core issues that I care about is restoring this economy ... and providing health insurance for everyone."

Dean's proposal calls for state governments to make more aggressive efforts to provide health care, including making everyone under the age of 25 eligible for Medicaid and giving prescription drug benefits to those 65 and over.

He said the government should help small businesses buy health insurance for their employees ages 25 to 65. The plan would place the burden of acute care for senior citizens on the federal government, making it easier for state governments to provide the rest.

His plan would also raise reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals.

Dean said he was closely examining a proposal unveiled last week by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that supports research on health-care policy. The plan would combine tax credits for private insurance, public program expansions and other steps to cover 39 million of the 41 million uninsured Americans.

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